C/O Jin Lee

By: Kirsten Espe

How do you apply for jobs that require experience without any experience?

The engineering co-op program is one of the only programs at McMaster University that offers the possibility of gaining co-op experience after a student’s first year. Recognizing the importance of gaining experience in the industry, students are eager to plunge themselves head-first into the applicant pool.  

“I know that [in] engineering, [compared] to a lot of other undergraduate programs, your GPA doesn’t matter as much; it’s a lot more project and experience-based. I feel like getting experience as early as possible is really important to kind of get a leg up on it and it’ll help set you up for the future,” said Gayan Athukorala, a first-year engineering student.  

Magnus Lu, an integrated biomedical engineering and health sciences student, said that they are interested in a co-op position this summer to begin building experiences and connections. This will also help Lu complete their co-op terms and earn some money to pay for their tuition next year.  

Importantly, Lu also sees co-op as an opportunity to explore his future.  

“I don't really know what it’s like to work either in industry or in research. . .I want to explore the field. Engineering combined with health sciences [has] a very broad pool of prospects  . . . I kind of want to cast a wide net to see what I want to do in the future,” explained Lu.   

Although engineering students start with a general first year before specializing in a specific stream, students still have a variety of options for their future, including going into research, industry or academia.  

However, securing a co-op position regardless of the specific field has traditionally been a daunting task due to the lack of experience first-years have.  

“I do think it’s very frustrating how many of these co-op positions prefer you to have prior experience in working because how am I supposed to get an entry-level position if all the entry-level positions require me to have entry-level positions beforehand?” said Lu.  

“I do think it’s very frustrating how many of these co-op positions prefer you to have prior experience in working because how am I supposed to get an entry-level position if all the entry-level positions require me to have entry-level positions beforehand?”

Magnus Lu, integrated biomedical engineering and health sciences student

Athukorala also added that the novelty of applying to co-op positions can be stressful for students.  

“It just feels kind of overwhelming since I know myself and a lot of other students just haven't applied to so many positions before. Obviously, I’ve applied to retail jobs before, but finding more [specific] professional jobs [is new],” said Athukorala.   

Both Lu and Athukorala have applied to positions mostly through OSCARPlus, a McMaster job site that offers co-op listings. They have also looked on job sites such as Indeed, LinkedIn and Glassdoor. Both noted that McMaster and the faculty of engineering offer a wide variety of co-op and career services they have taken advantage of.  

“McMaster has a lot of engineering events that I don’t think a lot of people go to. The engineering career services are really helpful to have. They have appointments for nearly everything like one-on-one appointments for your LinkedIn profile, cover letter, resumes, interview skills . . . My resume has definitely improved a ton since I first started applying and I kind of wish I first started applying earlier on,” explained Athukorala.  

McMaster also hosts periodic industry nights, where students can speak to professors and employers in specific engineering streams in order to expand their network.  

Despite the difficult and tedious search for a co-op position, both students are confident that their efforts are not in vain, whether they land a position or not.  

“A lot of students I’ve talked to. . .don't bother applying for the first year just because they don’t think they’ll get it. But I think applying, even if you don’t get anything. . . applying [and] getting used to the process is really important,” Athukorala says.  

“A lot of students I’ve talked to. . .don't bother applying for the first year just because they don’t think they’ll get it. But I think applying, even if you don’t get anything. . . applying [and] getting used to the process is really important.”

Gayan Athukorala, first-year engineering student

Lu expressed similar sentiments. 

 “If I don’t get any offers, at least I know the process, and hopefully by next year I’ll have a bit more experience under my belt,” she said. 

Athukorala would like to encourage his fellow students to not give up even if their initial attempts at finding a position are not successful.  

“I know a lot of people compare themselves to their friends and their peers. Getting a co-op, it’s something that’s really difficult, so if you don’t get one [in your] first-year or second-year, don’t feel discouraged by it,” said Athukorala.  

“I know a lot of people compare themselves to their friends and their peers. Getting a co-op, it’s something that’s really difficult, so if you don’t get one [in your] first-year or second-year, don’t feel discouraged by it.”

Gayan Athukorala, first-year engineering student

Engineering students who are interested in finding a co-op position this summer can visit the ECCS page or contact their faculty co-op supervisor for more information. 

By: Tanya Kett and Elizabeth DiEmanuele

With over 115 employers, Fall Career Fair is one of the largest recruitment events at McMaster. For many students, it’s an opportunity to connect with employers and diverse opportunities.

Fall Career Fair has also become a debated topic among some of our students. At the Student Success Centre, we’re familiar with why students decide not to attend.

We would like to debunk some of these reasons. Here’s why students should consider attending this year.

 

 

This is the Career Fair Catch-22: every year, there are students who say they cannot find organizations hiring for their program, and every year, employers notice their absence. This is especially common among students who do not have co-op built into their program.

Consider an organization beyond their name and industry. Larger organizations have many opportunities. Research the organizations in advance so that when you attend, you can ask about opportunities related to your interests. Even if they are not recruiting at the Fall Career Fair, there may be opportunities in the future.  

 

 

We completely understand that this prevents some students from attending, which is why we have introduced Career Fair Access Hour. This is a unique opportunity for students to have more one-on-one time with employers who have strong diversity hiring programs within their organizations and who have chosen to develop those deeper connections. The Access Hour can also ease some of the discomfort of wading through crowds of people. For more information, email careeraccess@mcmaster.ca.

 

 

While this may be true, employers want you to attend so they can get a sense of who you are as a person. If you make a strong impression, employers will remember when they go through online applications. Sure, they may tell you to apply online, but that personal connection makes a big difference when they select candidates for an interview.

 

 

But you will be someday, right? Use Fall Career Fair to make connections. Do some research, talk to people, and learn about future career paths. The earlier you start making connections, the more you will build along the way. Plus, it is much easier to do this work when there is less pressure to find a job.

If you are still in doubt, consider stopping by for even a few minutes to get the feel for these types of events. Fall Career Fair is a great way to build your confidence because these are employers interested in McMaster students. The Fair could lead to your next opportunity.

Fall Career Fair is on Thursday, September 20, 2018. Learn more: bit.ly/maccareerfair.

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