Career Guidance System: Soon-to-be-grad Part 1

So you’re in your last or second last year Of college or university. The realities of life are starting to settle in that you’ll almost be done school and the expectation is for you to get a job, and start adulting. Here’s some SIWIKE “Stuff I Wish I Knew Earlier” that I wish someone had shared with me prior to graduation.

  • Your degree doesn’t get you a job
  • Know what you want
  • Level up to figure out how to get there
  • Overcome obstacles

Understand that your diploma will not get you a job

Long are the days where a post-secondary education guarantees you a job. There may be a few Ivy League schools out there where graduation will mean something in your job hunt, however, in today’s competitive marketplace, it’s just “table steaks as so many people have they are degrees” as so many people have their degrees.


When I was in school, I think I accidentally got passed that, as I insisted on being part of a co-op program. I didn’t get into Waterloo for computer science as my first choice, I did get into the math program, unfortunately, it would not have a co-op component. My second choice was UT Scarborough which did have a co-op program.  

For many of my classmates that did not have co-op experience, their job hunt was much more challenging.


With your remaining time before you graduate, make sure you spend that time getting experiences and connecting with people that will help you become more competitive in the job hunt. 


I found that most students who are successful in their job hunt, start with a good understanding of what they want.


What do you want?

If you already know what you want to be doing after graduation, then you can breeze through this section. If you don’t then you should dedicate more time to these efforts. Here are a few things you can do to figure out what you want to do:

  1. Reflective write: spend 5 minutes a day journaling
    1. 2 minutes- what drained you. What could you definitely do without
    2. 2 minutes – what energized you. What were you: 
      1. Curious about (“I wonder why, how, what…”) → try it!
      2. Interested in (“I liked doing that. let’s do more”) → do it more!
      3. Excited about (“I’m really liking this”)→ deliberately do more and get better
    3. 1 minute: how can I minimize the first, and maximize the second. 
      1. You often cannot eliminate what drains you, so how can you minimize it, or do it differently so that it does energize you or is at least neutral. 
      2. How do you do more of what energizes you? Prioritize the time, hang out with the energizing people more often
    4. Over a week, month, term… look for patterns!
  2. Attend events: there will almost always be an event of some sort catering to your particular areas of interest. Sites like meet and Eventbrite can be good sources for such events. Or just a simple Google search can return a bunch of useful results. They may only happen during certain seasons of the year and plan to attend them well in advance. Or sometimes there are monthly meetups with people in your area of interest and you can just drop in to find out more.
    1. Conferences
    2. Case competitions/Hackathons
  3. Have conversations: speaking to people in your area of interest will allow you to get second-hand information from them.   While it’s not as good as doing it yourself, it can be much more scalable as you may not have opportunities in front of you to do it yourself. Make sure to have multiple conversations before making any judgements on a certain area, it could be that the person that you’re connecting to just happens to not share your same ideals. If however, you find that everyone you speak to seems to not resonate with you, then you might want to change your opinion of that area of interest. At the end of the day you will need to try it, but conversations can be good proxies before you make any significant commitments.
    1. Speak to other students, senior students, Teaching assistants, professors
    2. Speak to alumni
    3. Speak to professionals in your area of interest 
  4. Volunteer: volunteering can be easier to get a role versus a paid opportunity as the organization or person doesn’t have to take the monetary risk for you. If you can volunteer in the role that you want to pursue that is the best area. Otherwise, volunteer in areas that put you in proximity with as many people in your area of interest as possible. Are you interested in project management? Why not volunteer for the PMI project management Institute? Or help out at the project management meet up that you found on Or pick a cause that you are passionate about Biette the environment, your spiritual community, books, animals, or whatever, then find an activity where you can exercise your project management muscles.
    1. Find a cause you are interested and passionate about 
    2. Ask friends what they do
  5. Explore to Get experiences (new and more): this could be through online courses, in-person and live courses, or perhaps through a community drop-in session.  make time throughout the month, week, day to do something different. Sometimes you don’t know what you want because you haven’t experienced enough.
    1. Take a look at what you’re curious about, what you’re interested in, and what excites you. These may come from your reflections or you might already know them. Block off a few hours every week where you do something new. Enroll in that class. Read that book. Meet that person. If it interests you, then plan to do it again. 
  6. Freelance or part-time: after you’ve done some of the above, you might want to put your own skills to the test. You can put yourself out there on various freelancing sites like and five and a multitude of others, and see if you can have others pay for you to exercise your skills. At first, you may need to provide a lower cost as you are unproven in the marketplace, however as you get more clients you can start charging more for the value that you provide.
    1. Take a look at a part-time job
    2. Use freelance sites to provide your service to others


Everything other than the first one will require you to develop more of your social skills. Learning to network or BMC build meaningful connections. Even if you are an introvert, building meaningful connections is very possible. Often times it just takes getting out of your comfort zone and finding ways where building meaningful connections will work for you. Not necessarily being the networking butterfly that you may see some other extroverted friends. For those that are more outgoing, these will be relatively easy tasks to do.


Keep in mind that you don’t have to be limited by your degree. You can use it as a starting point. Or as a fall back if you can’t find anything that you’re more interested or passionate about. 



Alvin wants to get into Human Resources. He finds the HRPA Human Resources professional organization and connects with professionals at events and on panels. He learns that HR has many functions like recruiting, performance management, learning and development and others. He asks a recruiter he found online whether he could shadow her and would help her filter and source candidates (which he found is the most labour intensive task she does). He likes it and helps more and more and eventually sets himself up for a job after graduation. While he’s good at sourcing and recruiting candidates, he has an interest in learning and development (he previously considered being a teacher). So he’ll reach out to more L&D professionals while working in recruiting. 


Alice is in an urban planning program. She picked is as she was interested in people’s behaviours around cities, and wanted to get into architecture. She feels she is creative. As a child, she has always been interested in drawing and creative pursuits. Over the course of several weeks, months, she finds herself relaxing and re-energizing every time she doodles or creates some new artwork. She connects with people that do creative work she’s interested in and learns about UX/UI (User eXperience and User Interface). She takes it upon herself to learn how to design graphics and takes an online course to test the waters. She mentions it to friends and decides to explore her creativity by helping a friend who is looking to build an app. After a few conversations, she’s asked to design and implement gamification principles to make the app more successful. She’s now on a new career path!


At the end of the day what you are trying to do is get some hands-on and practical experience with the area of your choosing. Instead of just staying with the theoretical academics that school would be providing. Wouldn’t it be good to get in the pool and do a few laps instead of just reading a book on how to swim?


What do you want: summary

  1. Make time to reflective rate. Take the insights and patterns that you gather to explore new options
  2. Based on your reflections, plan time to attend events, have coffee chats (curiosity conversations)with people doing the things you want to be doing, volunteering in areas of interest, freelancing and doing part-time work to hone your skills.
  3. This process may take time. Weeks, months, years. If you’re close to graduation, pick one and take action!


What if I have too many things I want?

There seems to be a growing movement of people that are multi-potential-ites: people who are willing and able to do multiple things to fulfil their purpose and passion. For these people, the thought of choosing one thing is frightening. You can take a look at books like “how to be everything “by Emilie Wapnick for ideas of how to explore all your options. 


Are you the type that likes to dive deep into something then gets bored after a few months, years? Or the type that needs 3 to 5 simultaneous projects at the same time. Or the type that has their 9-to-5 to pay the bills and their passion projects and hobbies in the evenings where they moonlight? Or are you the type to combine all of their interest into one single niche offering?


If any of those sound interesting to you, don’t be restricted by the conventional wisdom of only choosing one thing. And if you are the type that is only interested in one thing, don’t let that force you to find other areas of interest.


Next topic: Now I know what I want, how do I get there. 


For more in-depth information, take a look at my book Stuff I Wish I Knew Earlier: soon-to-be-grad edition

Also published on Medium.