Think Strategically: Post-Secondary to Employment

Devant in French means – ‘before or to be in front’. In Esperanto Devant means ‘they won’. You get the idea – at Devant, we are about helping international students and alumni to get ahead in their career development. That’s why this month we want you to be thinking now about how to shape your academic experiences into career-related experience and skills. Read on…

As a new student or a recent graduate, you will likely have a co-op or other practicum-like experience. Still, this represents a limited amount of work experience, and you may think you don’t have a lot of employment experience or skills to get you that critical first career opportunity. Of course, it is important to look for and to gain part-time work and/or volunteer experience, while in school and we totally agree with that. Indeed, our career coaches, and your institutional career services professionals, can help you identify those types of opportunities. Today, however, we want you to think strategically about how to maximize your academic experiences so that you get the most value in terms of transferrable employability skills.

Academic > Workplace

A Canadian certificate, diploma, or degree is more than just a piece of paper: It is evidence that you spent a year or more learning and practicing your employability skills. However, when speaking to a potential employer, the onus is on you to explain what skills and knowledge you acquired during that time. Therefore, you want to be strategic and intentional about how you spend your academic time.

To begin, consider how you spend your time while you are in post-secondary education. This may include:

  • Participation in classes
  • Completing independent, individual assignments and projects
  • Collaborating on group projects
  • Involvement in clubs, associations, and sports teams 
  • Work-integrated learning, such as co-op, internships, and field research 
  • More casual interactions with your peers and professors
  • Part-time work
  • Volunteer experience 

Begin by thinking about the projects, clubs, and work-integrated learning opportunities that you feel would be (or were) most meaningful and helpful to your growth as a student and as a person. From here, reflect on what skills you may have acquired.

Technical or ‘hard’ skills are typically the easiest to identify from these experiences. You may have practiced specific tasks or learned how to use tools in a lab or tutorial setting, learned career-specific information in your classes, or taken part in a work placement or internship directly related to your career goals. 

Technical skills are practical and often relate to mechanical, information technology, mathematical, or scientific tasks.

The Balance Careers, Alison Doyle

These skills may include:

  • Analytical skills (e.g. Business forecasting, data analysis)
  • Software skills (e.g. CAD, Microsoft Office, CRM Platforms)
  • Management skills (e.g. Project development, budgeting)
  • Visual design skills (e.g. Graphic design, presentation development)
  • Written communication (e.g. Editing, journalism, writing for the sciences, business report development)

Next up are soft skills. You may have developed these in the classroom while completing group projects or presentations, discussing the course content with an instructor or professor, or working alongside employers in a co-op opportunity.

Interpersonal or ‘soft’ skills may require a little more thought. Soft skills are non-technical skills that relate to how you work.

The Balance Careers, Alison Doyle

These skills may include:

  • Leadership
  • Interpersonal communication
  • Intercultural fluency
  • Negotiation skills
  • Teamwork (e.g. equal contribution, encouraging team member)
  • Adaptability (e.g. flexibility, stress management)
  • And more. 

Once you’ve narrowed down the skills you developed, you will need to communicate these appropriately to potential employers. The main thing to keep in mind here is, to be honest about your skill level. Recruiters interact with many candidates and are looking for answers that will give them a good representation of who you are and where you’d like to go in your career. If an employer asks you if you have certain skills, it is completely okay to say that you are currently developing that skill or have developed the skills in an academic setting. You can follow this up by saying you are now looking for an opportunity to apply these skills in the workplace.

Now that you have an idea of what skills you have, where you developed them and how, you are in a much better position to explain your experiences to future employers. This is an important part of the ‘planning’ phase in your career development, but you don’t have to do it alone. Book some time with your career coach to work through your career action plan.

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Contact Us

If you’d like to ask a question about something you’ve read here, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our Director, Operations & Client Experience, Sejal Ahir at sejal.ahir@devant.ca or by phone at 1 (647) 781-2945.