Planning for the future is a daunting task for all students, filled with uncertainties and confusion. Summer is the season to look back on what the previous academic year has offered and what challenges have been faced. It is also the season to look forward to future goals and take steps to achieve desired goals.
Open year-round, the McGill Career Planning Services (CaPS) provides numerous resources to help students prepare early on for long-term future career goals. Equipped with review services, a mentor program, a comprehensive website, and a resource centre, CaPS is a free, informative, and helpful service for students that want to start planning for steps to take in the coming academic year.
Successful job searching and career planning require students to be informed on how to present themselves to potential employers and how to constantly look for potential opportunities. CaPS offers various services to students, including CV and cover letter reviews, mock interviews, and LinkedIn review services.
According to Omer Juma, U3 Arts and Mentor Program Coordinator at CaPS, it is important for students to learn how to present themselves accordingly for future job prospects, especially because McGill students are desirable candidates for many jobs.
“Employers approach us [to post jobs to hire] students tailored to a specific field,” Juma said. “[Companies] always want students from McGill.”
According to Mie Beers, U1 Science, CaPS’ review services helped her improve on her professional presentation to employers.
“I found [CaPS to be] very helpful,” Beers said. “The advice they offered really helped me focus in on the most important aspects of my CV and gave me a better idea of how to present my experience in a more professional manner.”
Joy Aguilar, U3 Arts, echoed a similar sentiment.
“The review services have helped me frame my profile in a way that is most presentable to a prospective recruiter,” Aguilar said. “[Examples include] knowing the standards and proper formatting of a resume, the do’s and the don’ts. It’s important that they offer that service because students need to know how to be able to sell themselves before they graduate and apply for jobs [or] grad school.”
CaPS also collaborates with the McGill Alumni Association (MAA) to run the McGill Mentor Program, which provides students the opportunity to connect with McGill alumni. According to Juma, the mentor program is a valuable way to learn from a relatable individual who is successfully working in a field of interest and get advice on career development.
“CaPS Mentor Program helps [many things such as] finding jobs, deciding on a major or a minor, and [developing] interpersonal skills,” Juma said. “[There are] over 800 mentors in various fields.”
Aguilar stated that the mentor program provided her with guidance on prospective career paths.
“I’m interested in a career in international relations—my mentor works in that field and gives me helpful advice,” she said.
According to Juma, the mentor network provides training for a global network of McGill alumni and mentees in McGill before entering into a mentor-mentee partnership.
“With mentors [and mentees], we discuss effective communication,” Juma said. “Mentors usually don’t have problems [with communication], but students are usually the ones who are unsure or shy. We teach them how to break the ice, [or if the mentor offers students advice], what students should do to research and follow up.”
CaPS also has a comprehensive website for students to explore and thoroughly research opportunities in the summer. Highlights of the website include an Explore Careers section, which teaches students to properly assess their interests, studies, industries, and job market trends. It also includes information on where and how to look for job, volunteer, or internship opportunities. Juma said that while CaPS cannot directly offer jobs or internships for students, it provides a comprehensive network for students to explore many opportunities available and to acquire the tools necessary to apply for positions.
There is also a specific section on the CaPS website dedicated to graduate school inquiries and preparation, which is useful for students who wish to use the four months of summer to research the steps required to prepare for graduate school applications. It provides information on how to find programs, where to acquire books regarding personal statements and grad school interviews, and a compiled list of handouts and resources for medical school applications.
According to Elise Jackson, U3 Science, CaPS helped prepare her for applications for medical school as well as scholarships.
“I used CaPS for one-on-one appointments for interview preparation—medical school interview and [the] Rhodes Scholarship interview—as well as attending one of their […] multiple mini interview practice sessions,” Jackson said. “I’ve found it helpful to get individualized, personal feedback; there’s a lot of information available on how to prepare for things like medical school interviews, but it was really useful to be able to get feedback on my answers and my performance specifically.”
Jackson also said that CaPS was accommodating in accepting students for appointments on short notices.
“Both times I made appointments, they were able to squeeze me in quickly on pretty short notice,” she said.
CaPS also provides a Career Resource Centre that provides collections of career-related books, DVDs, websites, periodicals, databases, and magazines. According to Juma, when students embark on career-related planning, it is essential that they know what to research and the resources available for them.
“Students need to do some research on their own, and the resource centre is an excellent place to start your research,” Juma said. “[After the appointment], the advisors […] usually refer students to the [CaPS] librarian or the specific sections [in the resource centre] to guide the student in this process.”
Jackson echoed a similar sentiment.
“I think that having both an extensive library of print resources, as well as having such helpful counsellors is really amazing and allows [CaPS] to offer a wide variety of services to students,” Jackson said. “[This] depends on whether students are looking for information on specific careers or want a face-to-face appointment to discuss career paths or practice for interviews. The counsellors are also extremely knowledgeable, which is great.”
While CaPS provides many resources to prepare students for graduate school or job applications, it also provides a web channel that allows students to directly search for full-time, part-time, or summer jobs, internships within specific programs at McGill, as well as post-graduate internships. According to Juma, many employers from respective fields come to McGill to search for potential employees during the On-Campus Recruitment (OCR) season in September, which is highly useful for students to learn about in the summer months leading to the season.
“myFuture […] is where you learn about different employers that come to McGill to recruit,” Juma said. “myFuture has campus [and] off-campus jobs, internships, and volunteer [opportunities that are global] posted on it. Students can explore what employers are looking for at [candidates] from McGill [and] what jobs are available.”
For students who are in need of financial aid, McGill also provides an exclusive Work Study Program that provides students with various job opportunities on-campus or in a McGill-affiliated organization and/or hospital. According to Juma, if students are interested in looking for on-campus jobs, the Work Study Program is the ideal place to start their search.
“[If students are interested in] summer jobs, look at the Work Study criteria on scholarships and the financial aid department,” Juma said. “Seventy per cent to 80 per cent of on-campus jobs are [found] through Work Study. [They] are not posted on myFuture.”
A common student concern while searching for employment in Montreal bilingualism requirements. According to Juma, knowing French and English is an asset to job or internship applications in Montreal, but it is not essential.
“[CaPS] tells students [that] if they really want to stay in Montreal, [they should] get language skills and polish their French,” he said. “[There are] different resources to [fine-tune your language skills], like the YMCA [or even] SSMU mini courses. In case a student does not have time to learn a language, [CaPS] helps [the student tailor their] profiles to showcase all their skills in a way that employers are still inclined to choose them.”
With the last month of finals approaching, students can freely explore all that is offered at McGill, especially with the resources at CaPS, the financial aid services, and the Work Study program. With these resources open in the summer, students can use these four months to browse their options, research the fields they may want to enter, and use CaPS services to look at job or volunteer databases, mentors, and opportunities on-campus. For students who are in need of financial aid, combining their research using CaPS resources and the Work Study Program is a helpful addition. According to Tessa Battistin, U2 Arts, summer is the perfect time to plan out the steps she will take in the coming academic year.
“I look forward to the summer because it gives me an opportunity to explore a new career path through an internship, or spend time travelling—both of which give me a [chance] to expand my horizons past my studies,” Battistin said. “CaPS is the ideal place to explore these opportunities.”