My name is Stephanie Kessler (BA’ 13); I’m a recent UWaterloo graduate and am currently the Talent Manager at Top Hat. Top Hat is a Toronto-based startup (originally from UWaterloo) that is an education technology platform that aims to make classrooms more engaging and interactive. My main function is to provide talent acquisition and management to the entire organization.
As I drove back onto campus to attend an AHS career-networking event this week, I approached signs welcoming Alumni back, and then I came to the realization… “Yup it’s official, I guess that’s me.” It’s barely been two years since I walked those halls as a student and now I’m attending the same event I attended on the other side of the table in 2012.
When I was approached to be an alumni at the event, I thought … what kind of advice/guidance would I be able to give students? But then as I reflected on the last year and a half since I had my last class, wrote my last exam and graduated in Spring of 2013, I realized a lot had happened. And hey, if I could share my experiences of getting a job and landing where I am today to help soon to be grads… then count me in!
I still remember entering my last 8 months of school - the end was looming and it was scary. For a very long time you know what’s in store for years & years to come, since way back in kindergarten, to high school, to university. Then when you approach the end of undergrad, you’ve lived 20(ish) years and now you’ve got to figure out that big scary ‘real’ world out there.
I was asked a lot about my journey, so here it is. Thank goodness for co-op! My initial interest in wellness is what guided my studies and first work terms, but the experience I gained through co-op lead me down a different path than expected to find my passion, and showed me where I fit in that big scary ‘real’ world. My journey from UWaterloo to where I’ve landed is in huge part due to do where co-op guided me. My first two co-op terms were in wellness under Health & Safety in the HR department – during these terms I got my feet wet in other HR related matters, and I loved it. I knew my next co-op had to involve HR – that was challenging (due to the competition for those opportunities)! I got lucky and landed at a very fast growing tech start up.
For the next two terms I gained as much knowledge and experience in HR/recruitment and in the tech industry as humanly possible. When I graduated, I knew a job like THIS was what I had to do.
I didn’t get there right away but I chose to follow the career path of some great mentors I had worked with. Then, low and behold less than a year after graduating I got an email from someone in my network, and here we are. So that’s my story and I hope sharing it with students at the networking event was able to help give them a starting point (and maybe some hope).
My message to students who are looking for their first ‘real’ world gig is to market yourself.
- Your resume is a reflection of you; it’s a piece of marketing material so make sure you are proud of it. Revise. Revise. Revise.
- Network. Take a handful of contacts with you where ever you go. Find mentors and keep them close. Use LinkedIn. Have coffee/drinks with those people – it might feel awkward and uncomfortable but I promise you won’t walk away regretting it.
- I would hire attitude over skill/experience any day of the week – so show positivity and initiative!
- Be flexible. It is unlikely you will walk out of UWaterloo into your dream job immediately (and it won’t pay you what you want, don’t let $$$ guide your every move – especially in your first couple years of work).
I could go on with lessons I’ve learned over the last couple years, but I’ll end here.
Self-admittedly I have a lot more to learn about life in the ‘real’ world and in my field. I will continue to be a part of the alumni network at UWaterloo. It is an excellent resource to participate in as alumni, especially those early in their careers, and of course to students.
Since I advocate networking – happy to be a part of yours!