2nd Annual Nursing Networking Night: From Graduation to Occupation

On Monday. February 22, 2016 – 6pm – 9pm – I had the opportunity to attend the second annual Nursing Network Night at Ryerson University – “From Graduation to Occupation”, hosted by the Nursing Course Union and Canadian Nursing Students Association (NCU-CNSA). This event began last year as a way to engage nursing students at Ryerson to be more involved, engaged, and take initiative in their career and professional development. It turned out to be highly successful in 2015 and garnered a lot of positive feedback from attendees. So this year, they announced their second event in order to continue encouraging nursing students at Ryerson to facilitate a smooth transition from graduation to occupation.

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The evening began with a few words of welcome from representatives from both NCU and CNSA. Then we jumped straight into a few words from a representative at Ryerson’s Career Centre, who shed some light on the basics of Networking. She was able to teach us the ins and outs of the process of networking – the do’s and don’ts, and the how to’s. She was also there to advocate and speak for the resource available on campus that is Ryerson’s Career Centre. The Career Centre is a highly valuable resource for Ryerson Students when in the pursuit if a job or to help facilitate an easier transition post-graduation to work and career life. They help students with things like making the ideal cover letter and resume, building your LinkedIn profile, interview tips and practice, etc. If you’re ever in need for great ways to build and improve your professional self, you can find Ryerson’s Career Centre at POD60 (located just below The Hub).

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After the presentation from Ryerson’s Career Centre, a couple of speakers who were Ryerson Nursing Alumni, spoke about their own personal stories and their journeys. They shed some light and inspiration as they talked about the different ways in which they were able to reach their goals of becoming an registered nurse (RN). This portion of the evening was especially helpful for the nursing student attendees as we were able to truly relate to these alumni, knowing that not too long ago, they, too, were in the same situation that we currently are in. Their stories of their journeys were captivating, motivating, and inspiring. It truly highlighted how personal the process is of becoming an RN and how nursing students can better prepare themselves for not just a job, but a long-lasting and fulfilling career.

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After the presentation from the alumni speakers, the evening moved forward to the dinner, graciously supplied by Chipotle.

After dinner was the highlight of the night: the Q&A panel. NCU-CNSA was able to get nursing managers from the major hospitals in the downtown to represent each hospital organization, and answer any questions we may have. The nursing managers and representatives came from Michael Garron Hospital (formerly known as TEGH – Toronto East General Hospital), UHN (University Health Network – comprised of Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Western Hospital, and Princess Margaret Cancer Centre), and The Hospital for Sick Children. The line up of panellists truly excited the nursing students in the room – the majority of whom eager to work for such established and world-renowned organizations. The Q&A panel was the opportunity of the night to ask any and every question running through every nursing student’s mind.

“What is the ideal candidate for you?”

“What kinds of people do you prefer to hire – internal or external applicants?”

“What are the different kinds of interviews you conduct?”

“Do you hire applicants prior to completion of graduation and/or NCLEX examination?”

“How do you build a strong mentor relationship?”

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Needless to say, the Q&A of highly experienced registered nurses in executive positions within the most renowned hospitals in the country, did nothing short of answering each questions with clarity and efficiency. Not only did they answer questions well to the highest degree, they also offered valuable insight and advice as to how to begin your career as an RN. They were more than generous with their time and their thoughts on how to transition from a nursing student, graduate nursing student, to RN. The panellists were gracious and true role models for each nursing student attendee in the room.

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The night was a great success, as anticipated! Everything went smoothly, all in attendance enjoyed themselves, and nursing students were able to connect with their peers and their prospective employers. We learned how to market ourselves in the health care industry, how to appeal to employers and organizations, and how to prepare ourselves for the near future.

Some thoughts on graduating

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I am a little sad, a little happy and a lot groggy. I finished my degree.

In the Disability Studies program students complete a year long research project and they present it to their cohort and faculty. Our cohort’s presentations took place recently. There were really insightful moments, topics and so many heartfelt presentations demonstrating that the personal truly is political.

It’s hard to describe what it feels like to be finished. The build up to the presentations, the nervousness, the anticipation, then an eighteen minute presentation and it’s over.

I recently watched a documentary on the large number of graduates from university programs in Canada who are currently working in dead-end service positions. The documentary claimed there were several factors contributing to this phenomenon. One, baby boomers are not retiring and there are less positions opening up, or new grads are competing against them for the same position. Two, recent graduates are given little to no training in university to prepare them for resume writing or job interviewing and there are no co-op experiences. Three, Canada does not have an education ministry which means there are no statistics kept on what types of degrees universities are producing versus the types of skills that the labour market actually needs.

One women in the documentary who graduated with a history degree said that she felt she would be working in an office wearing heels and a power suit by now. For those of us in the Disability Studies program we have somewhat of an advantage. We are all working in our chosen field. However, I also have an earlier degree that didn’t translate into a job. I have a religious studies degree. You may well question what the hell I was thinking. How would religious studies translate into a job? Well, I wasn’t thinking about a job. I thought about what I wanted to know, what interested me, what I was passionate about. I was privileged to have been able to work my way through that degree with very little debt.

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Two degrees later, and about to enter my masters in the fall I think the overwhelming factor contributing to graduates working dead end jobs is not the boomers, or the lack of training or the lack of an education ministry. (Although, we do need one! I mean, seriously Ontario how many teachers can we produce?) What we need is free education. The woman in the documentary wasn’t working in a dead-end service because she liked it, rather because she was thousands of dollars in debt from her education. We are stifling the creativity of graduates because they are in hock. If we stop people from learning what they are passionate about and future generations focus on employment, what does that mean for the arts, for culture, for philosophy, for music?

Free education will not create generations of entitled citizens. Take a look at the Nordic countries. Education is free, their economies are booming and they consistently rank high in the happiest countries in which to live. Take a lesson, Canada.

‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’

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What are we going to do after graduation? Will we dive into the working force and put what we have learned at Ryerson to good use? Or will we decide a career path that is completely different of what we studied? Will we achieve our career goals of becoming a teacher, engineer, psychologist, nurse, accountant and so forth? Unfortunately I don’t have the answer for you. What you decide to do after graduation is up to you (except in circumstances such as lack of specific job opportunities etc.). When I began my studies in Early Childhood Education (ECE), I had plans of becoming a director/owner of a childcare centre. I wanted to work in the public sector in order to provide accessible childcare to disadvantaged families. What am I doing today? I am currently working at a private child care centre providing education and care to preschoolers of families that can afford to send their child to the centre. We don’t always achieve the career goals we hope to. It takes time and experience to gain a good footing in the career path we choose. Not only am I working in a different sector than I had hoped, but my dreams of being a director have shifted greatly since learning about other aspects of childcare through my studies and after gaining more experience in both the public and private sectors through school placements and employment.

So what does it all mean? Am I a sellout for working for a private organization rather than the public where I am supporting a variety of families from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds due to subsidized care? I think if I answered ‘yes’ to this I would be being a little too hard on myself. The working field is not as accessible as it used to be. Especially being a recent grad, you want to choose a job that is of interest to you, but you may also need to be flexible and choose a job, even if it’s temporary, that is at least available when you need it.

Our interests are constantly changing. Through my experiences, my interests shifted from childcare to child therapy and taking a more mental health perspective on childcare. Is it scary to choose a different profession half way through your undergraduate studies? Yes. But does it mean you have to change majors? Not necessarily. I did my research and realized that the ECE background would always be beneficial to have when working with a child population regardless of whether or not it is specific to childcare. I also realized that completing a Masters in Social Work and pairing that with ECE would bring me to fulfil my new dream of becoming a child and family psychotherapist.

With that said, it is never too late to change your mind. Education itself is never a waste. When I look at how many friends of mine graduated from one program and are in a completely different line of work, it’s a relief to know that as our interests change, so can our jobs. Think back to your preschool days and what your response was when a teacher or parent asked you, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ Did you end up going to school to fulfil that dream of becoming a veterinarian, a fighter fighter, a doctor or a teacher? Many of you will answer ‘no’ because what we wanted when we were preschoolers is usually very different than what we want in university and the same goes for completing our undergrad to our interests upon graduation. So forget regret, dive into a job you want, or something that will fulfil you for the time being until you figure out your dreams. Nothing is set in stone.

Image from: http://missingsecrettoparenting.com/grow

Applying to Graduate

Perhaps, like me, you are registered in your last series of classes and are putting in graduate school applications. Perhaps you are thinking about where you would like to work after you get your piece of paper that says you know something about your chosen field. Sometimes the question of what you’d like to do with the rest of your life can seem overwhelming and in your reach forward, you may miss opportunities that are available to you now so here are some reflections on graduation from someone in the same boat so to speak.

It is important to realize that among all the other applications you are in the process of filling out, you also have to actively apply to graduate. Beginning November 1st, the Application to Graduate will be available and the onus is on students to start the process of being officially recognized for the work completed on their degrees. Ryerson requires that you apply to discover if you are eligible to graduate and if you are, the university will invite you to convocation in the spring. Applications are open from November 1, 2012 to February 25, 2013 online and by paper copy from February 26 through March 13, 2013. It is highly recommended that you speak to your Program Advisor to ensure that you have indeed completed the requirements for your degree. Don’t rely on your own interpretation of the degree requirements but get instead, I recommend getting the official nod in person. Jeff in the School of Social Work is probably tired of me asking him the status on my degree but keeping in touch with him as I completed my course load gave me peace of mind. I remember having a roommate who learned this lesson the hard way and spent an extra summer waiting tables to catch up on a missing elective. Please go to the Applying to Graduate link to confirm the above for yourself: http://www.ryerson.ca/currentstudents/curriculumadvising/graduate/

Once you have completed the application process and paid the $40.00 fee (plus an additional $50.00 fee if you want to do this on paper the old fashioned way), you should check in on your RAMSS account to see the status of your application. Then the only thing you have to do until you receive a convocation invite is ensure that you keep your marks at or above the standard you currently hold so that your standing doesn’t change by the end of the year. If your academic standard slides, it could affect your eligibility to graduate. Otherwise, you pass go and head off into the next phase of your professional life.

At this point, I would also like to add a section here about preparing yourself to graduate. When I completed my first degree, I was not mentally or administratively well prepared. Moving from an academic environment into “the real world” is a major life transition. There is a certain bubble-like quality to the atmosphere in academic institutions that doesn’t exist in the real world. Hopefully, you have completed a program, as most community service degrees do, that required at least one placement so you’ve had some exposure to the workplace.  I came out of school the first time with an English degree and a resume that included teaching summer camp and working in a bank. I spent the next decade trying to find my feet and finally ended up going back to school to restart my career in my thirties.The two biggest things I noticed when I arrived in the job market were that theoretical paradigms do not guide practice and that there is little or no commitment to equality in the big bad world. New graduates start out on the bottom and have to work their way up the ladder. You will need to be prepared to prove yourself and in a job market like this one, this will not be easy. You can, however, take advantages of the resources that Ryerson has to offer such as resume workshops, interview planning and employment databases at the Career Centre. You should also use your in-class time to your advantage to forge relationships with Faculty and other students who may become your colleagues in the future.

Connections in the workplace are also of huge importance. My third year placement supervisor told me that they very commonly hire students who have worked with them. So hopefully you are like me and are lucky enough to have landed a placement that you think will set you on a career path and make the most of that opportunity. Use the experience in your placement to get good grades in your practice seminar but also make sure you build your network through the agency’s staff, partners and affiliates. This will make your time more personally and professionally rewarding and might even open the bridge from academic to professional practice.

Ryerson Career Centre

http://www.ryerson.ca/career/students/

Ryerson Applying to Graduate

http://www.ryerson.ca/currentstudents/curriculumadvising/graduate/

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