On the Queen’s career path

A look at the two career centres on campus, who they’re for, and what their staff think about job-hunting with an arts degree

Julie Banting, left, is a career counsellor at the Business Career Centre. David edwards is its director.
Julie Banting, left, is a career counsellor at the Business Career Centre. David edwards is its director.
Credit: 
Andrew Flowers
Paul Smith, director of Career Services, said the most important skill an arts graduate can demonstrate to an employer is effective communication.
Paul Smith, director of Career Services, said the most important skill an arts graduate can demonstrate to an employer is effective communication.
Photo: 

For Carolyn Roche, the stress of finding a job after graduation is always on her mind.

“I’m constantly aware of it, I’m always thinking about it,” she said. “But more in a way of excitement than stress. Maybe closer to the time it will stress me out more.”

Roche, ArtSci ’07, is completing a major in drama and wants to be a director. Now it’s just a matter of
getting there. “I’ve applied to some grad programs that are leaning that way, but there aren’t a lot of specific directing programs, and some of them are quite difficult to get in to.

“They look for people who have a lot of experience already,” she said. “I’m also thinking I might just move to Toronto and just start calling theatres and see where I could direct and get experience in other ways.”

She said she has been to Career Services at Queen’s a couple of times, and they were helpful because they listened to what she had to say. “They’re helpful to a point but I think it’s hard for them to be specific about their knowledge. They said ‘you should talk to your profs,’ ” she said. “They offer advice that’s good but some of it is stuff that I’ve already done or that’s common sense. I think the most helpful thing is having someone listen.” Although her preferred career doesn’t have a direct route, Roche still thinks her arts degree is marketable.

“Theatre is a business where there’s nowhere I can go and sign a contract to be a director. That doesn’t exist,” she said. “I feel that it’s useful to have a degree, and in theatre, I feel that it’s giving me connections. Any program you take, you learn skills. I’ve learned teamwork skills, working with other people, presentation skills, problem-solving skills.” Paul Smith, director of Career Services, said liberal arts degrees from Queen’s are valuable because they teach graduates to communicate effectively.

“The degree equips you with an important set of skills that is valuable to employers,” he said. “You have been taught how to reason, and analytical skills. your responsibility is to communicatethose skills.
“It’s extremely marketable but an interesting challenge.” Smith said there are two reasons why the current job market is the hottest one he has ever seen.

“We’re seeing continued strong economic growth.
“Companies and the government are looking at a baby boom moving into retirement, and you’ve got to have transition time,” he said. “Also, the demand is such that there are not enough grads coming out of specific programs, so [companies] are looking to broaden their mandate.”The purpose of Career Services is to help students with the transition from university to whatever next step they choose, he said. “We help them with the mechanics of keeping a job and developing a skill set to be
successful,” he said. “We deal with the employer relation side and the career education side, which includes counselling and relaying information.” He said the centre approaches companies regarding recruiting, and also fields recruiting requests. All jobs are posted on the Career Services Network.
“Many jobs are from employers who have long-standing relationships with the school and have had good experiences,” he said. “Queen’s has a strong reputationso there are those who approach us who want to recruit. We are both reaching out and open to being approached.”

Smith said information regarding careers of Queen’s arts graduates cannot be tracked. “Some of the reason why that information is sketchy is when people leave, their relationship with Queen’s becomes tenuous,” he said. “There are also privacy concerns because employers won’t provide us with the information about who they hire from Queen’s.” He said larger companies have established campus recruitment teams, which accounts for the factthat the majority of job postings on the career network are for business or applied science graduates.

“Companies who come for recruitment tend to target those degree programs because campus recruitment teams are from large companies,” he said. “The larger sectors tend to be companies like oil and mining companies looking for applied sciences students and financial companies looking for
commerce students.” Smith said commerce students can use the service because the university funds it and it’s intended for use by all students. “We are funded by base grants from the university. Our budget is around $500,000 a year,” he said. Commerce students can also use the business Career Centre, located in Goodes Hall, for specialized assistance in seeking out jobs. David Edwards, director
of the centre, said liberal arts egrees can be valuable as long as students understand what they’re
getting into. “A lot of people find it’s a starting point for them and they still need to, or later on in their life want to, go on and do something else—either additional education, or something that gives them a skill or validation in a particular area,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with any degree in my mind as long as people understand what the scope is after they finish.” Edwards said the centre’s mandate is to provide specialized support to business students looking for jobs in a competitive job market.

“That doesn’t mean it’s stuff they would get over at the main Queen’s career services centre, it’s stuff that would be additional to what they get there. “And that’s because that’s what the market is giving as far as the training and support they give to other competitor schools,” he said.

“Those interviews are very specialized. The kinds of questions they ask are questions the folks over at the main career centre are not trained in. “If we didn’t do [training], our students would never compete in the marketplace.” Edwards said he had no idea if the business Career Centre got money directly from Queen’s.

“I doubt it,” he said. “For the undergraduates, we’re funded out of the general School of Business funding.
“The school has to pay for its staff, telephone, any materials that are used, anything that happens
here. That comes out of their general tuition.” He refused to comment on how much money is in the centre’s operating budget. “My numbers that I work with are private numbers, so I’m not allowed to make my budget known,” he said. The business Career Centre uses the same job posting network as Career Services. “We use their job posting network. it’s an efficient way and it’s more fair to the university,” he said. “We do get the odd non-business student that pops in. We’re here to help. The problem is we’re not paid for them. if we had too many coming in, we’d just have to shut the door.

“I’m not sure if Paul [Smith] would be very happy if their centre found that students were increasingly coming over here, because that’s where they are supposed to go.”

Julie Banting, career counsellor at the business Career Centre, said the centre has some of the same books and pamphlets.

“Some of our resources are overlapping,” she said. Banting said she has given assistance to arts students who come in to see her, though she’s not paid for helping them.

“I have met with some arts students that are taking business courses that have popped in to see
me that are interested in working in business over the summertime so we’ve talked about some trategies for them to find work,” she said. dan Le, Comm ’07, said he has frequented the business Career Centre since his first year in the program. “I’ve been going every year for various reasons,” he said. “Career advice, resumé advice, mock interviews, and just to get resources as well. There’s a
career library where you can get a bunch of books and stuff, which is very helpful.”

He said he has only been using Career Services because oncampus recruiting is set up through their service. “All campus recruiting goes through campus Career Services. It involves using their website, going there for interviews,” he said. “The Business Career Centre is more in line with the things I’m looking for. i don’t really know that much about the resources at Career Services.” However, Le said he was satisfied with part of his tuition going towards the funding of Career Services because it benefits all students. “My tuition goes towards services that are just for commerce, like the business Career Centre, and for services for all students,” he said. “It’s a part of coming to Queen’s and I have no problem contributing to services for students all across campus.”

Jane Good, co-ordinator of career counselling at Career Services, said they see some commerce students, and they have a good working relationship with the business Career Centre. “Commerce students are really well served by a career centre that has a program dedicated to them,” she said. “I think their very first line would be to use the centre closest to them.”

Good said liberal arts graduates can sometimes hit a wall when it comes to finding a job. “If you go through a program where there seems to be a more defined route, it seems natural to follow through. Then you get there and realize it might not be what you want; you hit that awareness point,” she said. “If it happens to a person in liberal arts in first, second or third year, it’s a bonus. It just gives you the opportunity sooner to establish the route.
“Should liberal arts grads worry about it? No. but I think they need to get acquainted with themselves.”
Arts graduates need to translate their skills into something employers will understand, Good said.

“If an employer can choose a skill set and that’s found in a specific program, it would make sense for them to be expedient and go there,” she said. “Arts grads have to find a way to translate their skill set to an employer. I have every confidence that people can take a liberal arts degree forward.
“It’s going to take effort.”

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