It feels quite nostalgic to write for Arthur now that I’m not a student at Trent University anymore. I must confess, I miss those blissful afternoons I spent at the Seasoned Spoon, where a copy of Arthur served as the most sought-after condiment for me and countless other aficionados.
I concluded my undergraduate degree in mathematical economics last April, and am currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Financial Economics at the University of Western Ontario in London. The atmosphere here, as one might imagine, is completely different from Trent’s and it has taken a bit of time for me to acclimatize myself to the campus environment and faster pace of life.
This past summer was one of the toughest summers for me. I was experiencing “new graduate blues.” The thought of not seeing some of the friends I’d made again was also preying on my mind. The perpetual doom and gloom about a tough labour market did not exactly help the matters either. My degree in mathematical economics provided me with a false sense of security, and made me feel somewhat immune to the tough labour market. While I was aware that I would struggle to find a good job, I definitely underestimated the magnitude of this struggle. As it turned out, I couldn’t actually find a job where I could use any of the knowledge or experience I had acquired through my time at Trent. A solid GPA and an impressive list of courses did not help either. In fact, the one full-time job I had over this summer was to look for a job!
While it’s true that the job market is currently quite tough for new graduates, I was surprised to see recent and new graduates from some of the other universities in the province getting hired, despite having similar, if not identical, credentials and qualifications to mine. After having conversations with several people, including with potential employers, new graduates, and recruiters, I realized that while Trent University definitely delivers a good education to students, it fails to provide them with other experiences that are crucial to have in today’s labour market.
Education alone isn’t enough in this labour market. It is the harsh reality. Most other universities have realized this. Here, at UWO, there are events held almost every week where employers like the Bank of Canada, Mercer, Labatt, and others come to provide information to students. There are countless sessions where recruiters come and provide information about internship opportunities where you can gain valuable work experience to complement your education. Networking events with alumni are also held frequently to assist the students.
Trent does organize an annual employment/job fair in the spring where employers are mostly looking to hire for summer camp jobs or teaching positions overseas. There are also representatives from other spheres. However, the general consensus among students is that the job fair leaves a lot to be desired.
Trent has to offer more than just education for its students to help them succeed. More programs that provide students with relevant opportunities have to be established, so they can gain valuable work experience before heading out into the real world. This would ensure their success not just as students, but as job seekers.
The Career Centre should do more, the job developers should do more, and there should be a strive made to provide more networking opportunities, instead of just a token resumé critique and interview assistance.
While this endeavour will not guarantee employment once graduated, it will help improve the current situation, which is one where a non-nursing graduate from Trent is not held in especially high regard by employers. As for students graduating this year, I would advise you to start planning early. I began job searching in January, and was still struggling over the summer. The job market is not very kind to new graduates, and it will take a lot of individual work in the absence of a useful career centre and seemingly apathetic university administration.