By Kelly Millar
It seems like every other day we’re being reminded to upgrade one thing or another, whether it’s our home computer systems, cell phones, or Facebook accounts, little messages pop-up without notice. However, there’s one reminder we don’t get and that’s to update ourselves.
Although we don’t see flashing bubbles in life that say “Urgent: time to upgrade your thought pattern” there is one technique the School of Accounting and Finance uses to get this message across.
Over the course of two-days, the Robert Half Professional Futures Conference prompts students entering second year Accounting and Financial Management (AFM), Computing and Financial Management (CFM), Math/Chartered Accountant (CA), and Biotech/CA, to re-evaluate their pre-conceived notions or ideas about co-op, professionalism, and even themselves in order to gain a more accurate and comprehensive understanding of the business world. Interactive workshops, globally renowned guest speakers, and mock interviews bluntly depict what it takes to successfully navigate through the co-op process and the work force.
This year, Kevin McMahon, School of Accounting and Finance (SAF) Business Development Officer and Scott Davis with Co-operative Education and Career Action, started the conference by dispelling several common myths behind co-op, everything from a student being defined by their first co-op job placement to securing most co-op positions through networking, both of which are false according to Davis.
Sanjay Grewal, a second-year AFM student was relieved however, to find out the employment rate was higher than anticipated,
one thing that really shocked me was the employment rate for co-op, it’s pretty high, around 97 – 100%. That really changed my view on co-op because coming in I thought it was more like 60 to 70%.
According to Peter Jenson, coach to Canada’s Olympic athletes and the country’s foremost expert on achieving top performance through mental preparedness, talked about the four pillars of mental fitness,
If you were getting physically fit you know what you would work on: cardiovascular, flexibility, strength, etc., so with mental fitness we talk about perspective, energy management, focus, and imagery
Jenson’s comparison between preparing for an Olympic sport and a job interview during the conference may have seemed unconventional to some, but for an audience full of second-year students with little to no job experience, it made perfect sense. The stress, anxiety, and excitement of a game can be, in some cases, the same kind of emotions we feel while preparing for an interview. In other words, you can run the plays a hundred times, but once you hit the field, you could drop the ball.
One way to increase your chances for success according to Jenson is to control your energy level “when your energy gets too high, you are going to make mistakes because your attention to focus is attached to your energy” explains Jenson.
Especially when you’re learning things or doing things for the first time. It’s easy to get too pumped up and make mistakes; you see that in sports all the time, we call it choking.
Jenson also attributes a person’s ability to visualize and become aware of their internal dialog and body language to achieving the results they desire.
Nancy Lala, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Chair of About Communications took Jenson’s talk one step further, demonstrating to students what they can achieve with hard work and dedication. Lala spoke of personal experiences, sharing insightful and inspiring stories of how she took a her passion for money at the age twelve to being named one of Canada’s most Powerful Woman – Top 100.
Lala’s talk sparked numerous questions from the audience who wanted to know everything from how to balance work and home life to tips on handling the fear of failure, “I say jump right in, you need to try, and certainly a co-op job is a good opportunity to take a chance and try something new” explains Lala.
Connie Stamper, Waterloo Branch Manager for Robert Half Canada and Christine Lucy, National Director of Strategic Partnerships with Robert Half Canada, conducted four important workshops for students: building your industry-focused co-op résumé, writing effective covering letters, delivering effective interviews, and a debrief session following the much anticipated mock interview sessions.
The 25 minute, one-on-one interview with an industry professional was perhaps the most talked about portion of the conference amongst students, who believed the hands-on experience would prove instrumental in enhancing their skills and confidence before embarking on their first co-op job interview. Each session was designed to mimic a real-life job interview with a specific company. From there, students were marked on their responses, attitude, professionalism, and body language. Once the question period was over each student was provided with valuable feedback and advice on their overall performance.
In the end, the two day experience clearly demonstrated the importance of continual self-maintenance. Much like those annoying “update now” messages we spoke about earlier, students learned the significance of upgrading their inner and external processes (or line of thinking and resume material), in order to help them successfully steer through the co-op process and business world. A life lesson the SAF believes will inevitably help them become innovative professionals themselves in the near future.