On Friday, April 13th, the best day of my life happened. I finally submitted the last assignment of my entire undergraduate in communications and media studies from Carleton University.
It was a day I had been long awaiting and looking forward to; finally knowing all my hard work throughout these past four years was paying off. I was finally able to say I made my mom proud; I was done! That said, it wasn't a fairy tale, okay. Not in the slightest because finishing university did not come without months and months of crying, stress, anxiety, and turmoil.
Now, fortunately since I'm done, I no longer have anything to stress about besides finding my dream job and figuring out what I want to do with my life. I finally have the piece of paper that states I can work in basically any communications profession and you know, I've gained knowledge or whatever. Because of that, I'd like to pass along my advice, my tips, and my tricks to making it through university. I'll section it so freshmen to third years can benefit and so fourth years and graduates can benefit.
Freshman - Third Year Students
For the love of God, please, please gain as much as experience as you can.
Sign up for coop, apply to FSWEP, do internships, volunteer, do whatever you can to gain some experience because if you don't, I promise you, unless you have bare connections, you'll be stuck. As someone who's been hunting for a job, I'd say that pretty much 95% of the jobs I apply to require 3-5 years of experience and these are ENTRY-LEVEL jobs. Working 10-15 hours a week just to gain some experience is honestly the best route you can take and let me tell you, most organizations are looking for students (mainly so they can pay them less) so finding something to buff up your resume shouldn't be hard.
Apply to FSWEP. This is truly the best way to get your foot in the door with the Canadian government. If you're lucky, you'll get something during the summer that'll be extended throughout the school year and when managers start hiring for the summer again, you can change departments. This is the best way to get professional and government experience which looks good anywhere you apply, a nice salary, and evenings and weekends off.
Do internships over the summer. You won't be doing anything else so why not make some money while gaining relevant experience to your program? Most summer internships are actually really fun and if you're into traveling, you've got a world of options available. Volunteer. Companies love to see that their employees are smart and experienced but also kindhearted and generous. Volunteering is an excellent way to network, gain experience, and do good for your community. Additionally, it's a low commitment that shouldn't take up too much of your time.
Network, network, network; this will come in handy, trust me.Apply to FSWEP in October and make sure to select skills you think an employer in your field would be interested in. You can only select from 15-20 options I believe, so is "speaking English" really a skill? For example, if you're in communications, maybe "knowledge of Web page creation/design methods" and "knowledge of methods for developing communications plans and strategies" would be better suited options.Use your school's success portal for job openings!
Ahh, perhaps one of the hardest things to successfully manage and balance. You have 3 papers due but you want to go out with your friends; you have an exam on Monday but there's a varsity game this weekend, what do you do? We've all been there and we've all had to go through it; ultimately, the best piece of advice I can offer is to truly determine what sacrifices you're willing to make.
I can definitely say that in the first years of university, I was a little party girl; I loved going out, I loved going to Montreal and Toronto, and I loved getting lit. At the same time, I was enrolled full time in school and I had to balance 5 courses while maintaining a better than average GPA; ending up on academic probation was not an option. So, what'd I do? Well, life is all about balance, as cliche as it sounds. Some nights, choose the party, go see your friends, get some air. Other nights, don't let FOMO get the best of you; stay in and kill that exam.
Invest in an agenda. Use it wisely because it can help you in ways you could never imagine to properly manage your schedule. Refer to it everyday and make sure to update it as much as possible. If you know you have a concert 3 months in advance, check your syllabus; exam the following week? Alright, let's spend the whole week prior to the concert studying so we don't need to cram or stress.Time manage, bish! Again, it sounds cliche, but the only reason why I was able to party AND maintain good grades is because I'm hella good at time management. If you know it takes you an hour to read 30-40 pages (average textbook chapter length) or an hour and half to properly understand the content, make sure to allocate a suitable amount of time to read. Wake up early on a Saturday, study all day or as long as it'll take you to complete your chapters, then go out at night. Eazy, peazy!
Get a free agenda from your school's student union or use your phone's reminders.Make study dates or study groups if you're looking for human interaction.Talk to people in class. If you skip class because you're too hungover, you can always hit them up for notes.
Ugh who would've thought that university requires studying, amirite? It's just so boring and such a drag; reading over 100 pages every night? Yea, no thanks. Sigh... if only, right?
If only studying was an option in university and our grades didn't totally depend on it. Sadly, the truth is you've got to study whether you like it or not because I can guarantee you that going into an exam unprepared is not only one of the most discouraging feelings but it's also so easily preventable. I was never the best at studying, I'll admit it, but by creating a study plan that was catered to me and that I could adjust to, I was able to maintain a better than average GPA and live life pretty stress-free.
Again, time management is key here. Don't cram your studying because for one, you won't understand anything and two, you'll be too stressed to really grasp any concepts. Start studying in advance so if you don't understand something, you can ask your professor, T.A., or classmates.Make friends in class. Honestly, this is so important because if you're missing notes or if you you don't understand a concept, you can ask them for help or for clarification. This also helps as a motivator because you can form study groups.Study at the library. It's quiet, you won't get distracted, there are snacks available, and you know you'll have power outlets. Coffee shops and your house or your friends house can just end up being too distracting.If you think you have a good understanding of the content in class, skim through the readings. Take a look at the intro, the conclusion, and then skip through the middle content pulling out major themes and ideas. It can difficult to concentrate and really, really read 30-40 pages in one sitting so if you feel comfortable enough, try my method. Take notes and associate authors with ideas.
Pair up with a friend and assign readings that you'll take notes on. For example, let's say you have 10 chapters to read for a class, get your friend to read 5 and take notes, you read 5 and take notes, then share notes when you're done! That way, your readings get cut in half but you're still get a detailed and thorough explanation of the chapter.Book study rooms! Studying in the open sucks because you hear every noise and can get easily distracted. When you're in the room, you can speak out loud with your peers or just tune into your own thing. Not many people think to book them so you're normally safe booking about a week or a couple days in advance.
Fourth Year Students and Graduates
Senioritis will hit you and it will hit you hard. There's no avoiding it, no running from it.
Senioritis is that feeling that you get when you know it's your last year or your last semester and you just cannot care anymore. You come this close to dropping out everyday and you notice your grades start to slip. When that happens, it's important you take life by the handles and steer it under your control because you really don't want to phuck up the last semester of university and have to retake a course just because you got lazy. Try to remember that once you get through this, you're done and that's it so why not sacrifice a little bit of your sanity for a few weeks until it passes; you successfully did it for the first 3 years!
Be aware. Don't try to deny the laziness and the procrastination you're feeling; admit it and take a step back to assess the situation. Try to stay organized and on top of things, don't push everything until the last minute simply because you can. Make sure all your assignments are spread out with ample time between each one. Study for your exams! Even if you don't want to - just do it.
Go to the gym to get your mind off things. It'll help wake up your brain and get you into drive mode.Write out each and every assignment and exam at the beginning of the semester and as each assignment or exam passes, highlight it with a yellow marker. It's fun to look back and see how far you've come but it's also that extra push of motivation when you only have a few left.Try to stay positive. Meet with friends, go shopping, do things to keep your mind alive.SHOP! My favorite thing to do in between studying or assignments. Reward yourself!
The Job Hunt
Now, if you successfully followed my advice for first year to third years then you should probably have an FSWEP position meaning you can just get bridged in and carry on with your set-for-life career.
If not, woo chile, we got a lot of work to do. Now, not everyone seeks experience while in university and that could be due to a number of things; heavy course load, too much stress, mental health problems, etc. Regardless, this doesn't mean you're a lost cause, it just means your path to financial freedom might be a little harder but that's okay! This also goes to anyone who does have an internship or an FSWEP position but won't be getting hired permanently upon graduation.
Network, network, network. Go to networking events, as many as you can and take business cards, introduce yourself, and make yourself memorable.Get your resume and cover letter professionally done. The investment you put towards that will most definitely be reimbursed when you land an amazing career. Apply to anything and everything you're qualified for, you never know what manager you'll come across. Maybe you don't have 5 years of experience but you have something else to offer. If you land an interview, it's for a reason.Attend job fairs! This is the best way to get your foot in the door.Apply to jobs months in advance before you graduate. Don't wait until the last minute because your student status won't last forever.
Use this government directory
to find out the emails for the managers of every department and branch in every province in Canada. So for example, if you're in communications looking for a role at ESDC, hit "Employment and Social Development", then "Public Relations" or "Communications branch" (whichever result comes up), then take a look at the different teams. Sometimes, there's only one team, sometimes there are four and you might have one for social media and one for web design; which one do you prefer? Click on the team you want (I normally look at both) then locate the managers and the directors and email them your cover letter and CV stating your search for employment.
If you're in the government, use GCConnex to post that you are seeking employment and to take a look at job postings.Check Indeed everyday and be switch up your keywords. For example, "communications", "media", "web design", "digital media", "social media", etc.If you're not hearing back, buff up your resume or cover letter!Set the goal of responding to emails within 24-48 hours.
And that's it! I hope this serves you well; kind of like a university handbook - Good luck.