About two and a half weeks ago, I started my full-time job at Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH). I love it here so far, and it has been almost everything that I envisioned my perfect post-grad job to be. However, the journey to get here was rocky. Job search has always been one of my most dreaded things to do. Not only is it a time-consuming and soul-crushing experience, but it also bring out a lot of the self-consciousness that I try to distance myself from.
Throughout my undergrad, I had heard a countless number of times that you NEED a co-op or internship in order to get a job after graduation. Every networking event I went to would have a speaker giving advice to students to get a co-op. My attempts at getting a co-op were disappointing, so I felt extremely discouraged and unsure of my job seeking prospects as a soon-to-be graduate.
Because of this, I knew that I could not compete with other graduates on merit of professional (aka paid) experience. I had to bring more to the table, which was all the professional volunteer work that I had done and the transferable skills I gained from that. I tried to expand my network and leverage those connections in my job search.
I graduated at the end of April 2017 and had my convocation in June. However, I started networking in around October and applying to jobs in February. I applied to around 30 companies in total, got six interviews (two of which I decided not to continue with, and two were through a recruitment agency). Yes, 30 seems like a very small number for four months of job hunting, but the reason for this was because of the way I approached the task. I focused on the quality and not the quantity of my applications. Before I applied for a job, I tried to see if I knew anyone currently working at that company and reached out to them to gain more insight about the company (on top of the extra research I did myself). Most of the time, they were also open to me referring to them in my cover letter or application form. Thus, five out of six interviews I got were because I knew someone in the organization.
From the four interviews (excluding the two that I did not pursue further), I got two offers. One was for a one-month contract at Cardiome through a recruitment agency. Even though it was exciting to finally gain experience in an office setting, my position was not relevant to what I studied at university and was certainly not what I wanted to continue to do after the contract.
After one week of working at Cardiome, I got a phone interview from VCH, then an in-person interview within the next two days, and a job offer the same evening. At that time, I still could not believe that it was true. Reflecting back, I fully acknowledge that my success in securing this job was largely because I knew the director of the department I applied to. I met him about two years ago at a student-run networking event. We talked for about one minute, but I was intrigued by the organization because of how positively he and his colleagues talked about their culture. So, I decided to add him on LinkedIn. Fast forward to a couple months ago, I messaged him to ask him out for a coffee to learn about VCH. That was the first informational interview I had ever had. I prepared my questions in advance and did not expect the meeting to go over 30 minutes. However, when we met, the conversation went from formal, me asking questions about the organization, to him asking me about my volunteering, passions, and motivations. We also talked about our love for music and how we wanted to be musicians when we were younger. Our meeting lasted for an hour. At the end of the meeting, he asked if I wanted him to put my application forward for his department (because they do not advertise their job postings), to which, of course, I said yes.
Fast forward to now, I recently was able to ask him for his feedback about my interview. He told me that, even though I did not have the professional work experience in the field, he saw a lot of potential in me. I also found out that I was one of their fastest hires because they wanted me on the team and felt that I would learn a lot in this organization. Up until then, I had the mindset of “I would be lucky if anyone hired me,” and hearing that I was wanted by such an amazing and supportive organization was unbelievable. Typically, I would hear recruiters say that I had great personality and drive but did not have the “actual” experience, so I should not aim for too high. I started to feel like maybe they were right. It is liberating to know that someone finally saw past my resume and paper qualifications.
Moral of the story:
- Co-op is not everything, but do keep yourself busy! Build your skills and network any way you know best and do it with lots of heart (don’t just go for a position because you want to fill your resume).
- Genuinely connect with people, whether it be at a networking event or informational interview. You never know how those connections will serve you in the future!