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Illustration by Valery Perez

Don’t dismiss work in college

By Nazeefa Ahmed, April 4 2022—

As the job market continues to get more competitive, university students need to hold  a part-time job or volunteer position alongside their degree. It is not enough to have a degree now to get employed as experience is just as important as education.  

Three University of Calgary students are taking charge of their future through work or volunteer experience. 

Tina Nguyen is a second-year Early Childhood Education student. She works at Kumon, a reading and math centre for students in preschool to grade 12. Students are self-paced and taught discipline and perseverance through completing daily worksheets. 

Nguyen is an instructor in Kumon’s Early Learner program.  

“I help young students develop important skills like the ability to work independently, to identify sounds, letters, words and numbers, and to even strengthen fine motor skills.”

In doing so, Nguyen says that her multitasking and problem-solving skills have improved. 

“I also like to think of teaching as working through one big problem-solving session. No student is exactly the same and everyone is very diverse. There are often challenges that occur while figuring out how to make a kid more successful and it allows me to be more adaptable,” she said. “It also allows me to work on my interpersonal skills. For instance, while working through a student’s behavioural issues with a parent or communicating with other staff members, it is important to be able to communicate effectively.” 

By working in a field directly in line with her future line of work, Nguyen is gaining valuable experience that will be appreciated by a future employer. But that is not the only reason she works at Kumon. 

“I believe that teachers have the power to touch and mould hearts and minds. They may never get paid as much as lawyers and doctors, but they can provide a supportive figure into children’s lives.  I enjoy listening to the stories and how my students see the world and I love seeing them grow into successful people.”

Work experience is not the only option. For natural-born leaders on campus, an elected position is a great way to refine your skills. 

Areeb Qayyum is a fourth-year Kinesiology student. He is also the Students’ Union (SU) representative for the Faculty of Kinesiology — a position that is coupled with honour and responsibility. By being an advocate for his entire faculty, Qayyum can practice his networking, negotiation and advocacy, all of which are essential in any workplace.

“Through my work with the SU, I get to attend and contribute to a variety of council meetings — such as Students Legislative Council, Kinesiology Faculty Council, General Faculties Council — and committees, Nominations, Undergraduate Research Symposium and the Teaching Excellence Awards. Besides the more scheduled work, I am honoured to be able to regularly communicate with my fellow student body and learn more about what changes they wish to see in the faculty,” he said.

“There’s something incredibly rewarding about being able to successfully advocate for change on the behalf of my fellow students, and witnessing the positive change I’m able to effect. For example, I put together a case to secure funding from the SU to cover the costs of a Biomechanics textbook,” said Qayyum.

“This textbook was purchased by me in a collaborative effort between myself and the Kinesiology Students’ Society (KSS) to better tutoring programs for one of the most difficult courses in the degree, Biomechanics 363. The power of advocacy to the SU, university and the government has given me incredibly strong organization, communication, and collaboration abilities — all of which I see meaningfully contributing to my future in a variety of future careers.”

First-year students should get involved in their communities as fast as possible. Zaid Ahmed is a first-year engineering and business student planning on working as a software engineer in the future. He is a member of Junior Achievement, a global nonprofit aimed to improve financial literacy and entrepreneurship within youth and children. 

“My role is as a liaison for JA Southern Alberta, where I provide support for students creating their own business from scratch in the Company Program,” said Ahmed. 

By helping build businesses from scratch, Ahmed practices his leadership, management and communication in both one-to-one and group settings. 

“The most marketable skill is my ability to manage groups of people and lead by example. I also get to be creative and learn about the market and how to fit into an ever-changing financial landscape.”

Ahmed’s work with kids is more than just a part-time job. 

“I’ve learned how creative and intelligent our young society is, and how sometimes all someone needs is a little spark for their ideas to blossom into something magical.”

What can you do outside of school to gain marketable skills?

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