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Career Services Informer

…brought to you by SFU Career Services

Archive for November, 2011

Get an Edge in Your Career Through Mentorship

Monday, November 28th, 2011

An interesting fact seemingly shared by almost all accomplished people is that they had a mentor. Bill Clinton was a protégé of William Fulbright. Sigmund Freud was mentored by Joseph Breuer. Carl Jung by Sigmund Freud. Bill Gates by Warren Buffet. Oprah Winfrey by Maya Angelou. Henry David Thoreau by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Hilary Clinton by Rev. Donald James. Helen Keller by Anne Sullivan. Aristotle by Plato. Plato by Socrates… The list goes on.

What exactly is a mentor, anyway? A mentor can encompass a wide variety of roles. They can be someone who models appropriate behavior, offers encouragement, opens the door to opportunity, keeps you accountable, and inspires vision. Having someone who is willing to share their experience with you can make a big difference, however cliché that may sound.

Surprisingly, despite many obvious benefits, mentorship has been cited as one of the least-utilized tools for advancing one’s career. A career survey indicated that only about thirty percent of respondents reported having a mentor, and roughly twenty percent said that their company had a mentoring program in place. In addition, as an advancement strategy mentoring ranked lowest, far behind the most popular choices of obtaining additional education, seeking more responsibility at work, asking for promotion, and networking. With that in mind, the goal for this article is to explain how to form and sustain a meaningful relationship with your potential mentor(s). (more…)

Dave’s Diary: Career Stylists & The Power of Metaphors

Friday, November 25th, 2011
A dinner fork stuck in a road is a common pun ...

Image via Wikipedia

If there’s one literary convention I love, it’s the metaphor. And I’m not the only one. I’ve written about metaphors here before – most recently in this post about emergence, but also in a couple of posts about time management, and this post about euphemisms from a while back. Something about metaphors allows us to explain things that would otherwise be nearly impossible to understand, merely by comparing that thing to something else. Practical use aside, metaphors also comprise some of the most elegant, powerful, and emotionally stirring language that we’re capable of creating.

Metaphors come up all the time in my work with students, whether they’re acknowledged or not. There’s clear value in using certain metaphors to explain the purpose behind many of the things we talk about. For example – why is it a good idea to have an attractive format and layout on a resume? Because it’s a great way to stand out from the crowd. No, there’s no crowd in most recruiters’ offices, but drawing that comparison helps to illustrate the significance of having a unique resume style, more powerfully and in fewer words than explaining this in other ways.

I’ve also thought about metaphors in terms of my own position as a career advisor. It’s thought provoking to ask, if you haven’t already, “how would I describe what I do if someone asked me to be as succinct as possible?” It wouldn’t be succinct at all to describe all the things you do on a daily basis, your responsibilities, your accomplishments, your significance. Nor would it be descriptive enough to only talk about a small subset of those things. So, how can we possibly do this question justice? (more…)

Dave’s Diary: My Fascination With Sigmund Freud

Monday, November 21st, 2011
Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis, smok...

Image via Wikipedia

Of all the posts I’ve written, the one that seems to consistently get the most page views is this one on strengths and weaknesses, Freud, and Alfred Adler. I guess there’s a lot of psychology students out there scouring the web in search of information on how these two prominent historical figures viewed the issue. If that’s the case, then I feel a little bit bad for them, because whatever knowledge I have about these two theorists likely derives from the same sort of textbooks that their courses are using in the first place. Although I suppose my writing is probably a bit more entertaining than that of most psychology textbooks (faint, faint praise).

Among psychology buffs, Freud can be a very polarizing figure. There are some – including close friends of mine – who strongly contend that he (and by extension classical psychoanalysis) single-handedly set back the progress of psychotherapy by decades, permanently etching a black mark on the history of psychology thanks to theories that seem almost non-sensical when viewed through a modern lens. What can I say? I guess people get a little sensitive when you tell them they unconsciously want to kill their father and sleep with their mother. (more…)

Just Like Bunko – Part 6: Leaving an Imprint

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

In this Johnny Bunko series, I’ve so far shared my experiences on:

Today, I share with you my last entry, on Leaving an Imprint.

During the past five years at SFU, I have been asked multiple times: what do I want to become after I graduate? Every time, I would hesitate before answering. I didn’t have an exact position I wanted to be in, nor did I know whether I would have the skills for whatever that ended up being. Hence, my typical answer: “I don’t know.” To many, uncertainty is uncomfortable. Parents, especially, may start questioning your motives at school and whether you have the desire to become the best at whatever you’re studying. At best, I have a faint idea of the industry I want to pursue, but nothing solid. Does this mean I’m destined for failure? (more…)

Four Tips For A Successful Co-op Experience

Monday, November 14th, 2011

Co-operative Education can be an excellent way of enriching your academic experience and narrowing down your potential career options. Employers increasingly cite real-life or internship experience as one of the most desirable qualities in applicants. With that in mind, here are four essential tips for getting the most out of your co-op experience:

Set personal and career goals, objectives, and expectations

In the beginning of your work term, discuss your goals, responsibilities and expectations with your employer(s). Ask any questions you have about the organization and your position. This can prevent some major obstacles or misunderstandings down the road. Make sure any goals you set are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely) and relevant to your long-term professional goals. List the traits that you would like to see in your ideal co-op position. What do you hope to get out of the experience?

Show initiative, drive, and commitment

There are various ways you can demonstrate your motivation and enthusiasm to your supervisor(s) and coworkers. Regularly ask questions, volunteer to take on interesting projects, and set regular meetings with your supervisor(s). You may not always get to do the most interesting tasks, so accept any “grunt work” without complaint, showing you’re willing to do your best no matter the situation. Regularly attend informal or social events to maintain good relationships and network with people in the organization.

Track your accomplishments

After your work term is over, you’ll want to be able to reflect on what you got out of your co-op experience. This will not only enrich your co-op experience, but it will also help you clearly articulate your skills and qualifications in future job or volunteer interviews. Throughout your work term, maintain a journal or portfolio to record details of any projects, lessons, and achievements you have had as a co-op student. Also, consider using tools that will help keep track of your accomplishments like www.idonethis.com.

Use multiple resources to stay informed about future internship opportunities

Make regular visits to Symplicity to stay in the loop about on-going and future co-op postings. Also remember that many job and co-op openings are never posted, so network with colleagues, professors, friends, and family to identify these hidden opportunities. Career Fairs and departmental student unions and groups are excellent means of networking with others. Social networking sites like LinkedIn are also recommended. Take the initiative to conduct informational interviews with key people who may refer you to interesting opportunities. Visit SFU Career Services or attend career workshops to learn about networking and conducting informational interviews.


Eric Kang, Career Peer

Eric is a returning Career Peer Educator and Career Peer Coach with SFU Career Services. He is studying toward his Honours Bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biology & Biochemistry (MBB) and Statistics. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, juggling, and drawing.

Dave’s Diary: Money Makes You Less Motivated

Saturday, November 12th, 2011
Cover of

Cover via Amazon

Money is a terrible motivator.

If I were to say to you, “Reader, I’d like you to come up with a creative way of solving this problem we have,” or “I’d like you to complete this complex task requiring somewhat sophisticated cognitive abilities,” you’d actually perform worse if I offered you a nice chunk of change as a reward.

Seem backwards? It should, because we’re quite conditioned to think about motivation in terms of linear, easily explainable rewards and punishments (see what I did there?).

Classical and operant conditioning form the bedrock of behavioural psychology, and between them explain a whole lot about motivation and learning. Classical conditioning, most widely known by the famous “Pavlov’s dog” example, tells us that we can create a new response to a stimulus merely by pairing that stimulus with another one a whole bunch of times. As a result, we can train dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell by ringing a bell every time we give them food for a few weeks.

Meanwhile, Skinner’s operant conditioning explains motivation in terms of reward and punishment. If I want to create more of a certain behaviour, I should therefore offer a reward after every instance of that behaviour, reinforcing it. Similarly, if I want to decrease the frequency of a behaviour I can pair it with a punishment, which by all reasonable logic should decrease and hopefully extinguish the behaviour in question. (more…)

Dave’s Diary: Young & Pissed Off

Sunday, November 6th, 2011

Image via Straight.com

“I’m young and I’m pissed off.”

What a wonderful quotation, spoken by a student I saw recently. I was captured immediately by how much it conveyed, both cognitively and emotionally, in such few words.

The student was discussing their passion for politics and ambitions of being an agent of social change. After struggling for a few minutes to find a way to describe their career and life story’s theme, they summarized in six words several meetings’ worth of exploration succinctly and with such an elegantly contradictory combination of brusque and eloquence, that I knew it was only a matter of time before it inspired a blog post.

“Young and pissed off” communicates a certain set of underlying values and motivations. It suggests that there is a strong dissatisfaction with the way things are and an unyielding sense of responsibility to do something about it. It gives meaning and purpose to their story. And make no mistake – we’re all living out our own career and life stories. (more…)