Professionalization the CAPS way

images (1)Confession time: I’ve never applied for a job.

Sure, I’ve applied for graduate schools, grants and scholarships, teaching assistantships, and once, a course lectureship. And I’ve had  jobs outside of the academy too, ranging from gymnastics coach to in-China program instructor. Some of these applications required CVs, a cover letter, or interview, but none required all the elements (that I’m told) are part of getting a job. Needless to say, as I near the end of my doctoral degree, it’s time to start wising up about getting a job.

In a bid to professionalize, I registered for McGill’s Career and Planning Services (CAPS) workshop series.

There’s a total of six workshops: 1) Build your job search tools (CV, cover letter, interview), 2) Discover the hidden job market, 3) Perfect your professional image, 4) Practice networking, 5) Practice interviewing, and 6) Practice case interviewing. You will notice even from these titles that there is overlap, but the series is additive, I can assure you.

The registration process is simple: log into myFuture (either directly here, or via the link in myMcGill), go to the “Events” tab on the main red header, and search for “Workshops” in the panel listing the events. You still might have to do some scrolling through to find all workshops offered, but they are there. Note that CAPS runs a different series for undergraduates, and graduate students.

For me, most of the information delivered during the workshops was fairly straight-forward and intuitive. Nothing ground-shaking. This is perhaps a reflection more on my age and frequent discussions with employed friends about how to go about getting a job rather than the workshop contents or facilitators.

Still, it was very helpful to have the disparate components of professionalization compiled and presented over the course of a couple of weeks. And I learned a couple of tips and tricks along the way as well.

I particularly liked the suggestion to prepare for interviews by going over your CV, and coding your different experiences by listing out specific hard and soft skills, as well as coming up with a story for each. For example, I shouldn’t wait to be asked in an interview about a challenging situation I confronted while researching tuberculosis patients for my doctoral degree. Instead, I should plot out a short story that serves to highlight the different skills I employed in order to overcome such tough situations, such as networking in order to gain research affiliation, Chinese language needed to conduct interviews, and tools to analyze data and produce results. As one of the workshop facilitators stated: “Going to an interview is becoming a storyteller. Stories make it interesting, and also shows evidence about the skills you’re talking about.”

Finally, I truly appreciate the friendly and helpful atmosphere created by the CAPS facilitators. I went on to have a private meeting with one in order to personally review my LinkedIn profile (It was very useful.). In addition to these workshops, CAPS offers a variety of other short workshops, and one-on-one help, including CV reviews and mock interviews.

All in all, I would highly recommend graduate students taking full advantage of the services offered through CAPS.

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