“Purposeful wandering”: the woes of trying to find a job post-graduation

Employment after graduation is a major concern for most university students.

Carol Naylor, acting manager in the Career and Professional Development Centre for Student Involvement and Careers at UBC, believes that students must learn to see unemployment as a process of building their careers and not as a failure.

“University grads come with a set of skills and competencies that are highly desirable — the ability to see things from multiple perspectives,” said Naylor, noting that being in a globalized economy means that it is crucial “for people to be able to see things and know that their perspective isn’t the only perspective.”

To help both companies find graduate employees and for grads to find jobs, the site  GradsLikeMe, an initiative hoping to alleviate some employment uncertainty by connecting recent graduates with potential employers.

Equipped with a portfolio generator allowing students to display work samples, upload videos and share pictures of their travels or extracurricular involvements, GradsLikeMe enables students to showcase their versatility. 

“The recruiting process is changing,” said Ashton Louie, creative marketing director at GradsLikeMe and a UBC alumna. “There is a lot more to it now than just black and white resumes.”

Louie believes this new recruiting process that GradsLikeMe enables will be more than just another job search portal for recent graduates.

“The problem with existing job search portals is that they aren’t directly catered to young people or recent grads,” said Louie. “We are trying to create a site where students and recent grads can find jobs that they know they can be candidates for.”

While Naylor acknowledges that the time after graduation where many students are unable to find work right away is a time of transition, she cautions students to not lose sight of the disciplinary knowledge that they have gained in their field of study during their time at post-secondary.

“If you study history, this doesn’t mean you definitely need to become a historian. When you think about what history is, it’s the understanding of story and how the past influences the present,” said Naylor.

For the students that have done co-op or the extracurriculars and yet still struggle with finding employment after graduation, Naylor reminds them that “building your career, developing your career, finding that next opportunity is an active process that never stops. It never stops when you’re unemployed and it never stops when you’re working.”

Working in the counselling department, Naylor notices that sometimes the spirit that students engaged in during their time at UBC shuts down after they attend their graduation ceremony, receive their degree and go home.

“Students need to apply the level of engagement that they expressed while in UBC and now apply it to the context of the world. Life and career are not completely separate areas of your life,” said Naylor.

She stresses networking to students, not by blindly shaking hands with employers at career conferences, but rather by surrounding themselves with like-minded individuals and pursuing their own interests.

“Yes, it is hard and you must create opportunities that aren’t easy to find, but isolation and seeing yourself as a failure is the killer,” said Naylor.

Instead, she encourages students to stay positive and focus on the bigger picture.

“There is a wandering in the wilderness phase of career development. To many students, parents and recent alumni, this wandering feels like, ‘This means I got the wrong degree, and that I’m not employable.’ But it’s not aimless wandering — It’s purposeful wandering.”