Looking Back: Alumni to Alumni

This past spring, we launched a new social media program called Alumni to Alumni. Each week, we posted questions sent in by current students and recent graduates on our alumni UBC social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn). We then invited alumni like you to provide advice in the comments below each post.

The first Alumni to Alumni series ran for 8 weeks. During this series, we covered a huge range of topics and received tons of fantastic advice from alumni like you. Topics included finance, careers, mentorship, personal relationships, health and wellbeing, and navigating prejudice in professional workplaces.

We have compiled a few of our favourite responses below.

“I want to find meaningful employment, but there seems to be simultaneously too many options and no options at all. I don’t know what field to work in or where to start. How did you decide what field to work in? Were your first jobs related to your current position?”

Jesse Hawker: Coming fresh out of school, it may seem like your options are limitless, but they may be a bit more limited than meets the eye. I’m definitely not going to tell you to settle, you should shoot for the stars! But don’t be afraid to take a position that’s less than ideal as a stepping stone. Nobody says you have to stay at the first job you get. Accumulate experience at one place while always keeping an eye out for new and better opportunities. In addition, never be afraid to acquire a new skill! Putting a bit of time into a new skill each day (learning a language, etc.) will not only open new doors professionally, it’s also been shown to keep one’s mind sharp, and help expand your perspective (which are useful both personally and professionally)

Kelvin Lau: Don’t be afraid to seek help from your network. Know your strengths and try your best to match it to the opportunity. There’s nothing better than taking on a role that leverages your natural strengths.

Dhillon1704: Don’t worry, you are not alone in this. Choosing one perfect option from infinite possibilities is hard and almost impossible. Mostly things do not go as we planned or dreamed of. There are numerous factors- the place where you are, the time you are living in, people around you, your natural connections and networks, opportunity, and most important circumstances. Just as others mentioned, start from anywhere, low skill job, high skill job, but always keep aspiring for better. Sometimes it happens in 6 months or 12 years but good things happen. 😇

Ebahbebah: Volunteer! One of the best things I ever did during undergrad was volunteer with different organizations to see what I liked and what I didn’t. I think volunteering can really help make a difference out in the world (depending on what you like) while also helping you learn and strengthen new skills! I’ve had a volunteer opportunity turn into employment in my fourth year of undergrad. You got this🙏🏻

Ruby W: Start with something you have a bit of experience and interest in. Tap into your network and chat with people, coffee chats might seem intimidating but you’d be surprised at how open people are to give advice! Have an open mind and a bit of patience, life is about the journey not the destination. Start from the bottom and slowly work yourself up, don’t be too pressured to know immediately what you want.

“It feels like this is a bad time to be graduating and I’m worried that I may have to make sacrifices to find a job. How do I stay true to my goals in the current job market? How did financial realities affect your career/life choices?”

Brian Mukeswe: As an international student, moving back home to work and live closer to family was something I always wanted to do after graduating from UBC. However, after looking at the entry level earning potential in my home country vs in Canada, compounded with financial responsibilities, I made the career/life choice to postpone moving back home for a couple of years. All this to say that it is okay to take detours along the way before getting to the field/location/position you want for your career. That being said, it is crucial to keep learning and exploring different opportunities along the way. Also be ready for the possibility of your goals changing during this journey.

“As someone who identifies as a visible minority, how have you navigated instances of prejudice in your professional career?”

Anonymous: As a first-generation immigrant and a person of colour, the field that I pursued after graduating in UBC bombarded me with enormous challenges up until this date. My degree was B.Sc. in Food, Nutrition & Health from UBC (and later on, MPH from another university). I decided to venture into Global Health/Global Dev with focus on Int’l Nutrition and as we all know, this industry (esp. Aid sector) is dominated with “privileged” individuals from the West (mostly white, &/or senior male) and a woman of colour like me, who was born and raised in a low-income country, always struggles to relate with the collective ideas and paradigms of the majority in these organizations. For all projects, I always think of myself as the recipient of aid/beneficiary (since I could’ve been one if I didn’t migrate to Canada) and I try to evaluate the overall impact of every project I work on “as the recipient”. I get disappointed if the projects had minimal to zero direct or long-term impact to the intended beneficiaries, hence my constant move to different organizations. It always seems like my voice isn’t heard no matter how clear & comprehensive my inputs are. Perhaps it’s my accent, or my culture, or my “exotic-ness” that they couldn’t grasp. Or perhaps my colour doesn’t imply strong enough to be a “saviour” like theirs. Unfortunately, until today, white supremacy still lingers within the system even when they disagree. There’s definitely a huge, undeniable gap between aid providers and aid recipients. The reality is that the culture of “white privilege” isn’t capable of coming up with realistic/tangible/feasible solutions to address the challenges of the underprivileged population due to lack of experience. Regardless of this constant systemic burden, I continue to pursue my passion in this field because I believe that a person of colour, an immigrant, and a woman is equally, highly qualified to address the needs of people like her own and serve those in destitute communities. Over the years, I stay committed to my mission to contribute my skills to benefit others, however big or small, in spite of prejudice and silent discrimination.

“I hear that mentorship is both professionally and personally valuable. Who have been mentors in your life? How did they become your mentor”?

Lorene Oikawa: One of my managers at work is a mentor. We have a good relationship and it developed informally. There is also a formal mentoring program where you can get matched up. I am on the boards of non-profit organizations and I have met many inspiring elders in my volunteer work. One of the elders I met while doing volunteer work is my mentor.

Check out our previous posts on any alumni UBC social media channels and stay tuned for the next Alumni to Alumni series in November! If you are a recent graduate, you can email your questions or concerns to mercy.wanalo@ubc.ca.

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