Understanding Post-Secondary Education in BC

In my other work life, I work as an undergraduate advisor for a university. I often meet with people who have no idea where to begin. I get asked a range of questions like:

  • What is a certificate, diploma, or degree?
  • What is a major, a minor, or a concentration?
  • If I take this degree, what job will I get?
  • What do I do if I’m not admitted to the university I want?
  • When should I be applying?

I have come to realize that a lot of people don’t really know where to find the information they’re looking for. They don’t know the multitude of options available to them, and they often make choices that make me cringe because I know better alternatives are out there. Today’s blog is a brief introduction to the tools I use when discussion the various options for people exploring public post-secondary education*.

Step 1:

Find the program. Understand what you should be considering as you explore education.

Step 2:

admission

Find the admission requirements for the program. Speak to the Advisor of that program. Know exactly what is required for admission and when the admission deadlines are (usually around the end of January for a September start). Take a tour of the campus to make sure it feels right.

At this point, you may need to:

  • Have your credentials translated: Many people use the International Credential Evaluation Service (ICES) through BCIT. Make sure this is required as it can be an expensive and unnecessary process depending on your goals.
  • Have your credentials evaluated for equivalencies: Many people come to me with their credentials from another university. While I would love to say that all of the courses will transfer into the program of choice, I am unable to say how coursework will be evaluated until someone has applied to the university/college (paid the application fee and submitted all required documents). At this point, the admissions office will evaluate for transferability/equivalencies and then inform the student their decision; then, I am able to provide the guidance required.

Step 3:

If you don’t meet the admission requirements, look at ways to get them:

  • English – many schools offer a multitude of learning options. You may want to be in touch with your local library to find conversation circles to practice your English, or inquire where you should be looking for more information. Richmond Public Library offers English Circles on Fridays and Sundays.
  • High school continuing education – Look to your local school district’s website to see what type of continuing education options are available. Often, high school courses are offered for a nominal fee.
  • College transfer – Many colleges will allow students admission as a mature student (over 21 years of age) into their General Arts & Science programs. Students can then take the required number of courses required to transfer to a university (usually 8 courses). The courses taken can be counted directly towards the program requirements of your intended university program so long as you are careful in planning. The BC Transfer Guide articulates how courses transfer from one institution to another in BC.

Step 4:

Check back with the advisor of the program you’re intending to be admitted into to ensure you’re on track. Also check with the advisor of the program you’re in (if you’re transferring from another school) to see what advice they have. The more you ask questions, the more you understand.

Step 5:

Take the program, but get involved in other ways. Completion of a program does not equal an employment outcome. You must have experience alongside your education to be considered when applying for a job. Things you should be exploring in ANY campus:

  • Co-operative Education – allows you to gain work experience related to your degree choice.
  • Career Services – assistance with resumes, cover letters, employment search techniques, and so on.
  • Volunteer experience – all experience is good experience, paid or non-paid.

At any point during the process, you can check in with an advisor if you need clarification. This is what we do. If you’re not getting the answers you seek, ask again or find another advisor.

*It should be noted that there is both public and private post-secondary education in Canada. I am biased. I feel that our public education system outweighs the private education system for a number of reasons:

  • Private education is more expensive
  • Private education is not transferable to a public institution
  • Private education often has a lower employment success rate as employers do not recognize it as much they would public education

If you have questions, leave them in the comments and I will answer you as best I can. If I don’t know, I will direct you to someone who will.

Posted in Careers, Education, Foreign-trained Professionals, Public Libraries | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Volunteer your way to a New Direction

When I was a university student, I just knew that I wanted to become a teacher for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. I wasn’t really sure how I would make it happen; I certainly didn’t have any experience working in this area, but I KNEW that this is what I wanted to do with my life. So, what any logical person does when they want to move their life into a particular direction does, I looked up what would be required of me to be a special needs teacher, particularly for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

Deaf-Ministries

The first thing I needed to do was to learn the language. I enrolled myself into American Sign Language 101 at York University. I loved it! I loved the expressiveness of the language. I loved being able to understand people who were communicating in sign. It challenged me and held me spellbound. I enrolled in the next level and became quite fluent. I soon realized that I needed to become more immersed in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community to better understand the complexities and issues I would face as a teacher.

Any education program in Canada requires students to have a strong background in volunteering with children. If I were going to apply to Teachers College, I would require experience with children. I contacted a school in my neighbourhood and began volunteering in a grade 5 classroom. I enjoyed my time working with these students, but they were hearing: a small problem for a person who is trying to learn about Deaf and Hard of Hearing culture.

I found the Bob Rumball Centre for the Deaf and started to volunteer there. It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. Most of the clients living there were Deaf and/or Hard of Hearing, as well as special needs. Their communication was rudimentary and hard for me to follow and I was volunteering with adults, not children. A fellow volunteer suggested that I might want to look into volunteering at a school for the Deaf.

After some time, I found the Earnest C. Drury School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing 80km away, in Milton Ontario. A school dedicated to teaching the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Knowing how far it was to travel to, I contacted them and asked if I could volunteer in a classroom. They said yes. I was over the moon and so terribly scared. I was taking the exact step I needed to secure my future as a teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. I went once per week, for a year, spending the day in the classroom and helping where I could help.

I applied to Teacher’s College and was accepted. I was one step closer to my dream.

I ended up in a different career, but that’s another story. The point that I want to illustrate is that my experience volunteering took me into the direction that I needed to go. I had a vision, and volunteering in the right direction took me there. My opportunities gave me a chance to:

  • meet people who were able to point me in the right direction
  • gain experience where I had none
  • enjoy a learning experience
  • immerse myself in a new culture
  • make a difference in the life of people I connected with

There are so many organizations that would love to have help. There are many ways for you to find volunteer opportunities. Think of what you have to offer, what you would like to gain, and go for it. Volunteer as much or as little as you can.

If you’re looking for a starting point, the Surrey Public Library has both opportunities and references available. You may also consider becoming a Library Champion like Mansoor Karimifar. Leave a comment below to tell me what your goal is, and what steps you will take to get there.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Stop Preparing. Start Doing. Today!

I think, sometimes the largest challenge that we have in the job search is that we spend so much time preparing ourselves so perfectly, that we miss opportunity when it presents itself. We attend employment workshops, we go to employment centres for advice, we learn LinkedIn, we complete assessments to determine what type of career we should be aiming for, we read up on networking, we learn what it takes to create the perfect resume, cover letter, and what types of jobs we should be applying for. Then we stop short of pulling it all together to apply for that perfect job. What is the point of having all of this knowledge if you’re not going to use it to help your search come to fruition?

We tell ourselves that we lack the right skill-set, experience, or expertise. We tell ourselves that we don’t have the time to apply. We make excuses to stop ourselves from achieving our dreams. What if, instead of arming ourselves with more knowledge about what we should be doing, we just did it? What if, we apply for that perfect job with our imperfect resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile?

The reality is, the perfect cover letter or resume doesn’t exist. The perfect experience may, in fact, be not entirely what the organization is looking for – when presented with alternatives, many hiring managers do an about-face about what an ideal candidate looks like. We are each unique. We each bring something to the table. Sometimes, we feel that what we bring is not up to par with what is already there, not realizing that the hiring manager has never been exposed to this particular flavour of experiences. We compare ourselves to our imaginary counterparts so we can tell ourselves that others are better than us. We kill our own dreams.

I think if we force ourselves to sit down and just do it, we could do what it takes to find that perfect job. Make small changes as you go, but keep applying. Apply for the job you want, even if you’re not 100% qualified. Contact someone for an informational interview and learn more about your ideal position. Get in touch with the governing organization of your profession, if there is one – ask if there’s a way to get involved/get a membership/attend events catered to that career. Work on your LinkedIn profile. Ask people to review your resume and cover letter and offer feedback. Trying to everything is overwhelming – so much so that we don’t do anything.

So pick one thing you’ve learned recently and actually do it.

  • Define yourself – let your true self come out on paper
  • Narrow your focus – pick a range of jobs that you would really love to do
  • Contact your local library to see what resources they have that can assist you: The Vancouver Public Library Career Commons has a comprehensive list of materials to help you get started (but don’t get stuck there!). They also have a TON of workshops (don’t get stuck here either!).

When you’re done that one thing, do the next. Eventually, it becomes second nature to do it as you learn and grow and prosper into your dreams. Leave a comment to tell me what one thing you did after reading this post. I look forward to reading what has worked for you!

“You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So… get on your way!”

-Dr. Seuss

Posted in Careers, Foreign-trained Professionals, Immigrants, Public Libraries | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A Day to Remember

As a child, my classmates and I would dutifully practice and recite the poem ‘In Flanders Field’ for the yearly Remembrance Day ceremony put on at my school. My thoughts then were of memorization and trying not to trip up over the words of the poem while our community watched on. As ceremony continued, the senior citizens of our community would present themselves to us in uniform and polished medals and share their words on the impact of The War: what it meant to their generation, and in turn, ours. I remember looking at them, at how old they were, thinking that this war was long ago and that it meant little to me. I wondered why we had to participate in something that had nothing to do with us. I also remember their emotion, the tears in their eyes, opening their memories to us so we would see.

Time passes. I grew and began to realize that the war was not, as my child’s mind thought, so long ago. I began to see the young faces of these seniors and recognized what they endured: the bravery demonstrated by going off to war, the ultimate sacrifice they made to ensure future generations:my parents, my own, my children, would be free to have choice. What used to be a poem of recantation has now become a very emotional and real one for me. To see the source of the poem: red poppies growing over the graves of the fallen, the sheer number of the fallen. I look at my forbearers with new eyes. I wonder what they endured. What they sacrificed. How they were able to return to their ‘normal’ life. I remember because I have been taught to remember. I remember because stories teach us to remember. I remember so my children will remember.

This November 11 marks 100 years since the start of the First World War, and 96 years from its end. 888,246 British or Colonial military lost their lives aPoppiesnd about 17 million people overall. In London this year, an installation by Paul Cummins, entitled “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” has placed a ceramic poppy in the dry moat of the tower of London. Each poppy represents a British or Colonial military fatality during the war. This spectacular, visual display emulates, very clearly the blood spilled and lives lost during this war. Let us remember those who died to give us our today. Let us remember the men and women who have served, and continue to serve our country during times of war, conflict and peace. On Tuesday, November 11th at 11:11 a.m., the 11th month, the 11th day, the 11th hour, take pause and reflect what others have sacrificed to give you the freedom you have today. Two minutes of silence is little in comparison to what has been given already.

There are events scheduled for every community in the Lower Mainland. If you’re not familiar with Remembrance Day, I encourage you to attend, observe and try to appreciate the way we honour those who have and continue to sacrifice themselves to continue our democratic freedom. Your local libraries are involved, your city is involved, and you should involve yourself. This is a Day to Remember.

Posted in Education | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

NaNoWriMo (It’s National Novel Writing Month)

NaNoWriMo

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to get the novel out of your head and put it down in writing? November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo): a challenge to write a novel of 50,000 words from November 1st to November 30th; a call to let go of your excuses and your fear and just write by the seat of your pants. If you’ve ever had a fleeting thought of writing a novel, now’s the time.

This program offers direction and encouragement to get you writing creatively and vibrantly through:

  • NaNo Prep – resources to help inspire us, challenge us, and prepare us to write a novel.
  • Pep talks from authors – Kami Garcia informs us that our excuses of being too busy are lame, our ideas don’t suck, our muse is not MIA and we ARE qualified to be writers.
  • Conversations with others – you can reach out to others in your region, join forums and discussions online
  • Earning badges – who doesn’t love a little external reward?

There are also programs for both youth and adults are being offered at various libraries throughout the Lower Mainland to help you get started. To list a few:

Burnaby Public Library: invites youth to submit the first chapter of their original novel to any BPL information desk or through email. The first chapter will be judged by BPL Librarians. One winner will be selected from each category: Younger Teens (grades 8 – 9) and Older Teens (grades 10 – 12). The winners will receive a $50 gift certificate to Metropolis Metrotown! The winning chapter will also be featured on the BPL Teens webpage.

Fraser Valley Regional Library (Maple Ridge): opening-up our Teen Area every Friday evening in November to provide space for like-minded writers to ply their trade together.

The New Westminster Public Library: offers a catalogued list of books written during NaNoWriMo.

Surrey Public Library: invites youth to join local author Denise Jaden and fellow teen writer Linda Xia for two hours of writing activities and discussion, Wednesday, November 5th from 4:00-6:00pm at the City Centre Library, Teen Lounge.

The Vancouver Public Library: will enter participants who complete this challenge in a draw where 3 winners will be chosen to have the first chapter (up to 5000 words) of their NaNoWriMo work read by an SFU Creative Writing consultant.

West Vancouver Memorial Library: invites you to come to the library and write like the wind!

Now if you’ll excuse me, it would appear that the prep section of the NaNoWriMo website is calling my attention. Will you join me?

Posted in Public Libraries | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Finding the first job

It’s easier to find a job when you have a job, or so the story goes. When you’re a newcomer to a new country it’s a bit more complicated. Most often, you’re not coming with a job in place.

You have to get a job:

One of the most difficult things for newcomers is getting that first job. You know what you were before you moved here: Engineer or Teacher, Doctor or Lawyer, Plumber or Carpenter and so on. You arrive and find that your qualifications need to be assessed and the process is long and complicated; or you find it difficult to have any response to your search for employment.. You hear: ‘you don’t have the Canadian Experience,’ ‘your qualifications don’t meet the BC professional requirements,’ or ‘you need to take one or two courses to have your credentials articulated as equivalent to BC standards’ (only to find that the one or two courses are near impossible to get). You find that you don’t know what you are anymore, or how you can make your old life fit with the new.

As your dreams of landing a job in your trained career wanes, it’s important to remember that sometimes, you need that first job to then get the job you want. The first job gives you a pay cheque. The first job counters the ‘Canadian experience’ argument as you begin to live Canadian workplace culture. The first job gives enough breathing room to let you figure out the rest.

My advice to newcomers on finding the first job:

Set your ideal target and set your bottom line:

  • Apply for the jobs that you want, and that you’re qualified for. Apply for the jobs you want, but think you’re not qualified for. The worst that will happen is…nothing. You won’t hear anything back from your prospective employer, or you may hear any of the above variations of why you’re not qualified. The best – you’ll get the job.
  • Apply for the jobs you don’t really want (your bottom line), but could do for short periods of time. Plan to accept a job you don’t necessarily want with a goal of continuing your search. Temporary employment provides breathing room to look for new employment, contacts in the community, and experience. It also looks better on a resume when applying for other positions – employers tend to prefer hiring those who are employed.

Talk to as many people as you can:

  • The folks at your BC Public Libraries are well equipped to refer you to the appropriate resources, whether it be employment assistance, translation of documents, language training, online resources and so on.
  • Contact the organization or governing body of the career field that you wish to work for. A simple Google search for Association of _______ (fill in the blank), BC will likely put you in touch with the governing body of your career. Call them. Ask them if to tell you what you need to know. Ask if you can volunteer in some capacity. The more you connect with others, the more you learn what you need to know to transition to your career in BC.
  • Look for a MeetUp group to connect yourself with others with common goals.
  • Connect with current employees and ask if they are willing to provide you with an informational interview. It may seem awkward, but most employees are willing to share insights into what their job entails. This also builds new connections.

Ask for feedback and practice:

  • Have others review your resume and cover letter to gain feedback. Make modifications if you feel a valid point has been demonstrated and you feel comfortable with the advice.
  • If you have been declined for a position, ask them to provide you feedback. A simple question such as ‘do you have any feedback on how I performed in the job interview?’ will let them know you’re motivated for possible future positions. Take notes of what is said and take time to reflect on how you can improve.
  • Research possible interview questions and have prepared answers for as many as you can. The process of thinking through an appropriate response will save you time and energy in the interview and will help you relax.

There are many more steps to securing employment; especially in a targeted career. The keys to securing the first job are to be open to alternatives, understand that this position is not permanent, and use the resources around you. Consider this practice for your move into your ideal career.

Posted in Careers, Foreign-trained Professionals, Immigrants, Public Libraries, Settlement Agencies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Library, My World

It’s Canadian Library Month. A month to celebrate what libraries mean to you and the rest of us in Canada. The Canadian Library Association invites you to share your story with the rest of Canada in form of a short video, or a written story in English or French, on how a library has impacted you. Submissions can be made online. Here’s my story:

I grew up in a small, farming community called Warner, Alberta. The current population sits at just under 400 people. Set in the middle of canola, wheat and hay fields, among the cattle ranches, this village offered ample time for the imagination to reach as far and wide as the prairie sky. As a child, I got to know every nook and cranny of this village through my daily adventures. As I got older and bigger, the town got smaller. I needed more. Thankfully, we had a library.

Warner Library

The library operated on a part-time basis. When it was open, I would gather my books to return to exchange for new ones. What a treat it was to be the first to check out the newest book that came in. The status and power awarded to the first borrower was akin to being ‘Queen of the Castle’ on the playground that day. I would relish it; knowing I was the first to read what was contained within the pages of that book. It was hard not to spoil it for others. Of course, this was a seldom occurrence – we all had a sixth sense as to when the next book would arrive and competed accordingly.

My favourite thing about the library was that it opened up a world beyond Warner. I read about cities larger than Lethbridge. I learned of countries outside of Canada. I discovered cultures that were foreign to me. I thumbed through pages of the encyclopedia and learned things I wouldn’t have even imagined learning. This small room contained the world.

Later, as I moved throughout Canada, I would discover that libraries have much more to offer. Imagine to my child’s eyes, the discovery of:

  • Read along programs
  • Parent and tot programs
  • Employment programs
  • Language programs
  • eBooks
  • Workshops
  • Speakers series
  • Community engagement events
  • Etc.

It’s astounding how far, for me, libraries have come: from a place of books and self-discovery, to a place of that plus community, interactions, philosophy and dialogue. And now, for you as a new resident to BC, I see libraries are a first contact point in your new community, a place to get your bearings, a welcome place. Libraries are unbiased, thought provoking and growth invoking.

It’s Canadian Library Month. How have libraries inspired me or touched my life? They’ve made me more open. They’ve helped me grow into a better human being. They’ve made me more welcoming, more understanding and more worldly. How has a library touched your life? Leave your response in the comments. Submit your story online.

Posted in Children's Books, eBooks, Foreign-trained Professionals, Public Libraries | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment