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Hire Power career conference helps new UTSC graduates take confident first steps

HIRE POWER: Students share information and discuss future goals and career plans at the Hire Power career development conference for students and alumni. (All photos by Ken Jones.)

by Robert Onley

The age-old question facing new graduates after finishing their university degree is often: “So what do I do next?”

From May 3 to 6, the Academic Advising and Career Centre and Department of Alumni Relations hosted the Hire Power Conference: New Grad Strategies for Finding and Keeping Work. The event offered recent graduates job-finding strategies, résumé and cover letter critiques, as well as providing them with empowering insights from UTSC alumni on how to crack into the professional world. For more photos of the event, click here. 

Hire Power was designed to help answer the “What next?” question, through a variety of workshops covering every aspect of landing a rewarding job and taking confident first steps into life after UTSC. From what to wear, to how to eat, the workshops equipped graduates with critical advice before entering today’s ultra-competitive job market.

While all universities offer some sort of a “Get Started” orientation program, the Department of Alumni Relations identified the need for a “Life After Graduation” program to send graduates out of UTSC and into the job market on the right foot. The Life After Graduation initiative includes a mentoring program, transitional workshops, and networking events.

“Hire Power is all about deepening the learning experience,” said Ruth Louden, assistant director of the Academic Advising and Career Centre, “We needed to bring the undergraduate experience full circle with a continuous learning process for new graduates.”

Each of the Hire Power sessions was developed to address the myriad fears that new grads often feel upon completing their degree. Although some grads were shy at the outset of the conference, many said their personal confidence slowly began to build as the four-day event progressed.

At a session on the first day called “Hi, my name is…”, graduates were invited to develop an effective 30-second personal introduction, and were coached on making the most of first impressions. Called “The Elevator Pitch,” these 30-second intros gave grads the chance to gain confidence in who they now are – bona fide university graduates.

Developing grads’ confidence in themselves and their own abilities was one of the primary goals of Hire Power, said Louden, noting that “in order to ‘do’, you need to have a base of confidence.”

After having their résumés and cover letters critiqued on day two, and then being given a “Professional Image and Fashion” consultation, students were armed with the tools needed to tackle the often-daunting Career Information Fair held in the Meeting Place.

But at the Career Fair, instead of uncertainty, many graduates felt an invigorated sense of self-confidence as their 30-second “Elevator Pitches” were put to use for the first time. After touring the countless career displays from every industry imaginable, one June 2010 graduate commented that “before today I was afraid to talk to employers at Career Fairs, but now I was ready to talk, I really felt empowered.”

No longer ‘just’ students, graduates were also trained on the basics of business etiquette, professional conduct and how to dine in a business environment. This practical knowledge rounded out the graduate’s personal skills toolbox, and provided a pressure-free environment to learn easily-overlooked professional details, such as which side the bread plate is on, and which fork is the salad fork.

The Hire Power conference was also coordinated with the Department of Alumni Relations, while the University of Toronto Scarborough Alumni Association (UTSAA) sponsored the etiquette session. At the “Industry Awareness Panel”, UTSC alumni, including current career advisors from the Academic Advising and Career Centre and recent alumni, spoke with new grads about their varied job experiences after leaving UTSC.

One of the alumni panelists was Ranya El-Farniwani, now a consultant at a major human capital firm in Toronto. Ranya encouraged graduates to pursue work that they enjoy, to utilize their networks when hunting for jobs, and to be careful of how much personal information they share online given the prevalence of social networking websites. At the end of the day she said, “Follow your heart and don’t be afraid to take risks.”

The first-hand perspectives of UTSC alumni once more brought full circle the learning experience offered at UTSC. Seeing and hearing from alum on how their post-UTSC careers have unfolded gave pertinent insight into how new grads might proceed with the first steps in their own lives.With an alumni network of more than 35,000, this year's UTSC grads are now in good company.

Bachelor of Arts graduate Thomas Ngo summed up the conference, saying “Professors don’t tell you how to get a job, they just teach you what they know. This conference was a practical eye-opener.”

Robert Onley is a 2009 political science graduate from UTSC. He is currently studying law at the University of Windsor.

© University of Toronto Scarborough