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Ashley Chrysler, Business Communication Coordinator, Bayer. Inc. shares advice with CSMM students

Ashley Chrysler

CSMM graduate Ashley Chrysler (BAH, ’13), Business Communication Coordinator at Bayer Inc., shares some advice for current McMaster CSMM students.

Congratulations! You have taken the first step in the right direction.

I was in your position not too long ago. I had just started the program, had one single friend, and no idea what to expect out of school.

If you are anything like me, I am sure you have felt the overwhelming stress of not knowing your way around campus, what classes to choose, or how to go about completing schoolwork. I wish I had someone to guide me through university life, which is why I decided to write this piece.

While in School

Mentorship Program

First of all, I would highly suggest joining the Communication Studies & Multimedia Student Society Mentorship Program. Founded in 2012, McMaster students of all levels enrolled in Communication Studies or Multimedia are provided an opportunity to connect with others. After filling out a brief application, mentors and mentees are matched up accordingly. There is also a fun Meet-and-Greet Social where all members can mingle. For mentors, this is a great chance to demonstrate your leadership skills and provide guidance to younger students. For mentees, it provides access to a solid and reliable support system.

If you want to apply to be a mentor or mentee, follow this link and fill out the corresponding application: http://sgws.humanities.mcmaster.ca/~mmnews/?p=304

Professors

Similar to the Mentorship Program, I would encourage students of all levels to connect with their professors outside of class. McMaster’s educators are among the brightest in the industry, and are more than willing to share their knowledge. Apart from elaborating on what to expect in different fields and workplaces, they also have a reputable network of their own, and may prove to be helpful in connecting you with the right business professionals.

In the immediate future, professors can help you obtain a teaching assistant position. You would need to go through the application process nonetheless, but it helps in the selection process if the teacher is aware of who you are, your work ethic and ability to perform the task at hand. Professors can also offer you other opportunities, like assisting in their research.

“I would encourage students of all levels to connect with their professors outside of class.”

Get Involved

Most students have limited connections to industry professionals. In that case, the hiring managers will be judging you solely on the information provided in your resume. You need to therefore impress them with an active involvement in your school and/or city’s communities. Volunteer experience will do wonders for your resume, even if it is only for a few hours a week.

Get Experience

Experience is key in finding a job in the current market.

The first thing I would strongly suggest is taking part in the Communication Studies Internship Program. Counting as a course credit, CMST 3B03 offers a unique learning opportunity for students by facilitating handson work experience relevant to their studies in both the public and private sectors. The internships are unpaid and consist of 130 hours over the course of a semester. The professor will help you obtain a placement and offer guidance throughout. You will not only establish valuable connections with business professionals, but also form an idea of what the industry entails and whether it is the right job for you.

“CMST 3B03 offers a unique learning opportunity for students by facilitating hands-on work experience.”

For more information, visit: http://csmm.mcmaster.ca/internship/student.html

In second year, I applied to the Federal Student Work Experience Program (FSWEP). FSWEP is a government program that provides full-time students with hands-on experience related to their field of study. One of the best things about this opportunity is that no previous work experience is required to apply!

In 2011, I obtained a full-time summer position as a Communications Assistant with the Canada Border Services Agency. With hard work, I was able to keep the position part-time throughout the school year and subsequent summers. I was pleasantly surprised with the importance and breadth of tasks I was assigned. I gained experience in writing and compiling a quarterly internal newsletter, receiving media calls and preparing responses, facilitating filming and interviews, drafting speaking notes, and organizing and executing a wide range of events, among other things. It gave me a well-rounded idea of how internal and external communications in the public sector operates, and provided me with a wealth of experience that many others in my program did not have.

I strongly suggest that students apply to FSWEP. I know a number of students who acquired positions as Border Services Officers at Toronto Pearson International Airport and Hamilton International Airport through the online application. Others have also been pulled from the system based on key words in their resume matching the hiring criteria. If you are interested, visit http://jobs-emplois.gc.ca/fswep-pfete/index-eng.php and click “Apply to FSWEP” located on the left side.

Use Social Media

One piece of advice I can give is to dabble in everything. If a new site is released, make an account and acquire at least a basic understanding of how it works. That way, if it comes up in an interview, you can offer some kind of insight. I would also suggest having a LinkedIn account. A lot of relevant jobs are posted on this site. Also, if you are applying to a job, include your LinkedIn account for employers to find you.

In Your Last Year

Applying For Jobs

In terms of applying for jobs, I would suggest doing so somewhat early in your last year. I started applying to full-time jobs near the beginning of April and got hired a few weeks into September. A lot of companies do their hiring closer to September; so do not be discouraged if you do not receive any interview requests until late summer! I applied to over fifty jobs over the course of four months and received only a handful of interviews. Another piece of advice: DON’T SELL OUT. There will be a plethora of jobs that you will not find nearly as interesting as your goal, but feel you are more qualified for. If you are anything like me, you will get too comfortable in this “temporary” job and stay in it rather than pursuing your goal. With this being said, only apply to things that you find appealing and could see yourself happily doing for a long period of time.

“One piece of advice I can give is to dabble in everything.”

www.oscarplusmcmaster.ca is a great source for finding your first job. In addition, local job websites post a large number of opportunities that can be searched by key words. I obtained my current position through a local job website (indeed.ca). If you are going to do this, however, I would suggest always e-mailing the employer directly and not through the website itself.

When sending in your application, always include a resume and cover letter specific to the job you are applying to. I would also suggest attaching at least one writing sample that demonstrates your ability to perform the tasks inherent in the position you are interested in. For example, for a communications/public relations job, I would attach a sample news release. Your work does not have to be published or created in the workplace so long as it exemplifies your relevant skills.

Have A Back Up

In my last year I decided to apply for a one-year postgraduate certificate in a few different programs. If you are not quite sure what you want to pursue, apply to a variety of programs you find interesting and decide at a later date. Additional education is a great alternative if you do not obtain a full-time job, because at the end of the program you have further certification and are that much more qualified than others. Furthermore, when looking for a program, I would suggest focusing on those with internships. A lot of students are hired directly from their placements through these postgraduate co-ops. Alternatively, if you do not get hired from the internship, you still have valuable and relevant workplace experience to offer.

Preparing For Interviews

I would suggest saving the job descriptions of any jobs you apply for. A lot of the time you will be contacted after the position has been removed from job sites. A few times I have shown up to interviews without fully remembering what the position entailed. If you save the job descriptions, you can tailor specific examples to different aspects that the job requires.

Next, I would research the company in depth. Have a basic understanding of what the company does, as well as what their mission and values are. It is impressive if you have done research, and shows that you really care about the job. In addition, you can elaborate on how you can help their organization, based on your comprehension of what it does.

I would also study for the interview. The most common questions that I found reoccurring in my interviews were:

What are your strengths? Weaknesses?

Tell me a bit about yourself.

Why do you want to work for _____?

I found that the grand majority of the interview questions that I was asked were behavioural (e.g. give me an example of a time when you ____). I would therefore suggest researching examples of such questions, and conceiving examples that demonstrate each scenario.

I would suggest visiting the following site for help: http://jobsearch.about.com/od/behavorialinterviews/a/behavioral-interview-questions.htm This website elaborates on other interview matters as well, such as what to wear, how to present yourself, what questions to ask the employer, and potential answers to interview questions.

If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me at chryslad@mcmaster.ca. You can also follow me on Twitter (@ChryslerAshley) or add me on LinkedIn at: ca.linkedin.com/pub/ashleychrysler/30/21a/91a