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Though it can be difficult to balance a full course load and job hunting, waiting until after your final exam to begin looking for work can make it trickier to find something after you graduate.

Though the job market for new grads is competitive, there are a few things you can do while you're still in school in order to set yourself up for post-graduation career success.

Start early

Those who are able to find work soon after graduation often begin their job search well in advance. In fact, some even spend their entire final year at school working towards making that smooth transition into a career.

“As you're going into your last year, have a pretty good idea of what direction you want to go in,” said Brandon Agnew, who began working as a media planner as soon as he graduated from Durham College in 2017. “I started researching companies the first month of my final year, learning who did what, who the big players were, and where I wanted to fit into the mix.”

Find your niche

Agnew says that as he began the final year of his advertising and marketing communications program he put a lot of thought into which specific area of the industry he wanted to work in.

“With a lot of these courses, it's such a combination of different skills that you get, so you can fit into any kind of niche role within the industry,” he said. “Try to find what you really like and focus on that, because too many kids get drowned out trying to do well in all the different fields without identifying what direction they're actually going to go in.”

Network

Once he knew he was interested in media planning, Agnew says he asked his professors for contacts and alumni in the industry, and made a point of connecting with anyone that spoke to that class from his field.

“When they invite people in, it's either an alumni from the school or from a partnership the company has with the institution,” he said. “There's also a lot of resources that are untapped as far as who your professors may be connected to, outside of the partnerships the schools might have.”

It's also never too early for current students to begin searching professional networks for alumni or other professionals in their preferred industry to connect with.

“If you send them a really nice message on LinkedIn saying 'I'm a new grad, can you spare five minutes to chat about what you're doing or what you're company is doing, I'd love to learn more,' people are always willing to talk,” explained Nadia Dabagh, a sales development representatives at TouchBistro, who graduated from the University of Western Ontario this past April.

Accept the rejection

Dabagh, who began applying for jobs in September of her final year as a student, says it's never too early to apply, as most students will have to submit a lot of applications to land their first job.

“Start applying early, and just be diligent with it; I would go through maybe 25 applications every single day,” she said. “you just have to do the work, know your value, and try not to get discouraged if you receive a lot of rejections.”

Use youth to your advantage

While it can be hard for students to compete for jobs against those who have more work experience, sometimes your age can work in your favour.

“Find something that is unique to our generation that you can offer to any company,” advises Gennifer Ram, who recently graduated from a media studies program at the University of Western Ontario. “If you want to become a lawyer, for example, maybe reach out to a law firm and see if they need help with their social media or something where you have an advantage because you're in your 20s.”

Ram leveraged her youth and tech savvy to land a job as the social media manager for a high-end children's clothing store in Toronto soon after graduating. “It may not be exactly what you want to do for that company, but if you have a skill they don't have covered yet, get a foot in the door that way,” she said.

 

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