By: Richa Alvares and Stephanie Wang
A peer-to-peer conversation about career-ready skills
Get career ready by learning from your peers.
Richa Alvares (interviewer) is a fourth-year Science (Life Sciences) student who works as a career peer at the Student Success Centre. Stephanie Wang (interviewee) is a fourth-year Science (Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour) student who works as a writing advisor and pediatric clerkship administrator at McMaster. She will be doing a summer research program at BC Children’s Hospital.
Note: The following text content is not a complete interview transcript. Some edits and cuts have been made for readability and clarity.
Some examples of career-ready skills are leadership, communication, collaboration, etc. Which skills do you feel that you have developed the most through your academic work at McMaster?
I am currently taking a 15 unit course called CityLAB SIR [semester in residence], so it’s kind of a course where you are taking real-world Hamilton issues, and you’re tackling them with other students. And that course is definitely, definitely in place to get us career ready.
We collaborate with a lot of city staff and city councillors to tackle these issues, so I have [greatly developed] my oral and written [communication] skills because we write a lot of reports. And teamwork and collaboration [are also important] in that course — just because we work on a team together in this small class to make sure things get done. So, in order to get our project ready for the city to implement, we really need to have that teamwork and collaboration.
Students often feel their experiences need to be directly related to a career to have value. But employers value skills that can be developed from a range of experiences. Can you share an example of an experience that wasn’t related to a career but helped you develop a career-ready skill?
Working for campus events — that is a job that I got because I thought it was gonna be fun. It was gonna be an easy way to get to know students and participate in events while hosting them. That was something that I took up for fun, but now, looking back at my experience with campus events, I’m thinking — wow, I was really working and dealing with my problem-solving skills. I was working with a really tight-knit team, and there was a lot of problem-solving involved. It was a really fun way to practice those skills, but it was never something that I thought would be an experience that I needed to practice those skills.
Cultural fluency has to do with demonstrating openness and inclusiveness and showing sensitivity. How have you developed this career-ready skill at Mac?
This [is] a skill that I don’t think I was very good at before coming to university. Now that you’re in university, you deal with and you meet a lot of people from different backgrounds, and it’s placed more emphasis is placed on being culturally sensitive.
For example, in my CityLAB SIR class, we have had many people come in and teach us about indigenous issues that are going on in Canada. How we can help? How can we make sure that we are planning our projects with that in mind? That was really helpful to understand different perspectives and things, and making sure that people’s voices are heard. Another thing — I speak Mandarin, and actually going back to the campus events example, I have had people come up to me and speak in Mandarin and ask, “So what is this?” “What is this event?” “What is going on, how can I participate?” To be able to communicate with people who don’t even speak the same language as [others] is very helpful, and that was something that I have been really grateful to be able to do.
What advice do you have for students to help them develop career-ready skills?
I think my biggest piece of advice would be, take up every single opportunity that comes to you. Throughout my undergrad degree, I have kept various jobs here and there, and I participate in clubs [too]. It’s been important to develop skills and just be able to practice and meet other people. Those are really important aspects.
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