Skip to the content of the web site.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

  • Prof's 'follow your passion' job advice
  • Notes in the lull before winter exams
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Prof's 'follow your passion' job advice

from the latest issue of the Inside Scoop online newsletter for co-op students

[Smith]It’s no secret that the recession took its toll on co-op. It would be unreasonable to assume that, somehow, the University of Waterloo could escape the economic downturn that dug its talons into labour markets around the world. However, Waterloo economics professor Larry Smith (right) assures us that Canada has weathered the worst of the storm and is now sitting pretty with a 61.8% employment ratio (meaning that 61.8% of Canadians who can work are working).

Does this mean that we co-ops, desperate for that next rewarding work term, can breathe a little easier? Yes. Does this mean that we can relax and assume the jobs will come to us? No. Definitely not.

Smith is a self-proclaimed “knight master” who models himself in the image of Yoda (yes, that petite, green, “passive voice am I using?” Yoda), harnessing the potential of his would-be Jedi students. To this noble end, he shares some of his observations about the labour market, and his advice about the future.

Something Smith cannot tolerate is the tendency for students to “default” into a career. Those who, with graduation approaching, say: “I don’t know what I want to do; my marks are okay; I guess I’ll teach!” “They’re the ones,” he exclaims, “that wake up at 39 and wonder ‘what did I do to myself?’ And then they do all sorts of irrational things like learn how to skydive because they’re so bored with their lives.” Instead of squandering your life in pursuit of the “secure job with a good pension” your parents advocated, follow your passion. But before you blindly dedicate yourself to your career quest, look at the market and do your research.

Some sectors remained more or less unchanged by the recession, some boomed and others buckled under the pressure. It’s not as easy to get a job in manufacturing, in public service, in goods production, as it used to be. Other industries have decreased hiring for entirely different reasons; for example, fewer elementary and secondary school teachers are being hired because fewer babies are being born.

Nonetheless, Smith believes that if your passion is in one of these “injured industries”, you shouldn’t change it. “For those students who earnestly desire to teach because that’s what their passion is, understand the facts, recognize the reality of where your career choice stands in the labour market, and consider the strategies you’ll employ to prepare your qualifications.”

The “facts” about which industries are blossoming and which are not act as stepping stones to make informed career plans, not as determinants that dictate your career. It’s important to be realistic, to understand the specifics and allow them to influence your job search strategies.

Canada came out of the recession a little bruised, but more or less intact. We’ve returned our pre-recession employment years ahead of any other developed, mature state. And the reason Smith gives for this is rather surprising.

“Canada has,” he confides in a hushed tone, “one of the highest rates of creation of self-employment on the planet. In February alone, 20,000 people started their own business. And that statistic is by no means unusual — it is not a sudden boom of self-employment to counter the recession.”

The trend is supported for quite some time. Canadians, it would seem, are leagues ahead of their American counterparts in making their own success and living the so-called “American Dream”.

It would seem that the glorified, one-in-a-million, successful entrepreneur is not at all rare in Canada. Smith believes this knowledge should have an impact on students: “If you do your whole job search without ever asking yourself ‘would I like to be an entrepreneur,’ then your career strategy is fundamentally flawed. Many people would say no, and for very good reasons, but to never ask the question is bad career planning.”

Back to top

Notes in the lull before winter exams

This year’s edition of the Maclean’s Guide to Canadian Universities is in print this week, priced at $19.95 and profiling 81 universities across the country (up from 69 in last year’s edition). The 256-page book is a spinoff of the Maclean’s universities ranking issue, which appears in November, and includes a reprise of the 2010 rankings, along with double-page profiles of each university and a 64-page section of general articles aimed at young people getting ready for higher education. Topics there range from budgeting to nutrition, textbooks and the importance of social networking with real live people. The book’s profile of Waterloo is subtitled “Global Research Hub” and emphasizes words like “quantum”, “global” and “digital”. “Even the most timid and intimidated students find their place socially,” contributor Stephanie Findlay writes, “if you’re in math or engineering, especially.” One detail that’s not quite right: she refers to “Bombers, the engineer lounge”.

[Chrzanowski shows off a crane]Ed Chrzanowski of the Math Faculty Computing Facility was featured in the Brantford Expositor newspaper the other day for his work in carving cedarwood cranes as a thank-you gift for donors to Red Cross relief work in Japan (photo, left, by Brian Thompson). • Nominations close today for a total of 12 faculty seats and two graduate student seats on the university senate. • REVelation cafeteria in Ron Eydt Village is holding a "student appreciation dinner" tonight as exam season looms, and Mudie's cafeteria in Village I has begun 24-hour-a-day operation that will continue until April 15, when a sizeable number of students will be finished.

“The April 30, 2011 fiscal year-end is approaching,” says a memo from director of finance Jane Manson, “and it is important that all current year transactions are posted and reviewed in a timely manner.” For this final month of the 2010-11 year, she has this advice: “Departments should establish a cut-off date in April for internal billings . . . any activity occurring after the cut-off date should be included by the department as new year business . . . departments should review their statements on a regular basis throughout the month of April to ensure accuracy of the April transactions.” And more: “Travel claims or settlements for trips completed and vendor invoices for all goods received up to and including April 30 must be received in Accounts Payable as soon as possible for payment, but no later than April 30.” There’s more, reflecting the complexity of the university’s near-billion-dollar finances; the memo includes a list of staff and phone numbers for departments to consult as required.

Almost 4,000 undergraduate students got an e-mail the other day inviting them to take part in an online research project being done by Judene Pretti, director of WatPD, and Gary Waller, director of the Waterloo Centre for Advancement of Co-operative Education: “The purpose of the study is to investigate education outcomes that are believed to influence employment success. We will examine differences in some of these outcomes between students registered in co-op programs and students registered in regular programs. If you decide to participate in this study, you will be asked to complete a web-survey and provide some background information which will allow us to determine your program, plan, and courses. You will be asked questions related to specific skills and rate yourself on a number of behaviours and characteristics. Data collected from this study will be available only to the researchers associated with the study and will be maintained indefinitely in a password protected database in a restricted area on campus. Participant information will be treated as confidential and kept private. We assure you that this study has been reviewed and received ethics clearance from the University of Waterloo's Office of Research Ethics.”

The Centre for International Governance Innovation, located in central Waterloo and closely linked with the university, has announced a new strategic plan, recently approved by its board of directors. The plan, says a news release, “sets CIGI’s objectives for the next five years, with emphasis on the focus of its research and policy development programs. CIGI will focus its work in four program themes: the Global Economy, Energy and Environment, Development, and Global Security.” The release quotes Thomas Bernes, CIGI’s executive director: “We believe these themes identify the areas in which the world’s major governance challenges will occur over the next decade.” More from the CIGI strategic plan: ”Vision: CIGI strives to be the world’s leading think tank on international governance, with recognized impact on significant global problems. Mission: CIGI will build bridges from knowledge to power, by conducting world-leading research and analysis, and influencing policy makers to innovate. Beliefs: CIGI believes that better international governance can improve the lives of people everywhere, by increasing prosperity, ensuring global sustainability, addressing inequality and safeguarding human rights, and promoting a more secure world.” The news release notes that the plan “also sets out tactics for achieving influence and impact for the organization’s policy recommendations, including new directions for its publications and communications, and a results-based management approach to setting project objectives and evaluating the outcomes of its work.”


Back to top

Staff conference opens; speaker in SLC

The annual Staff Conference runs today and tomorrow in the Humanities Theatre and nearby classrooms, with multiple keynote addresses and even more breakout sessions on issues of work life. The full schedule is online, leading up to Thursday afternoon’s big talks by Sean Aiken (“Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation”) and Marc Kielburger (“Me to We”).

Things start today with Peter Jensen speaking on “Igniting the Third Factor”, Stuart Knight on “Four Conversation of  Leader”, and Gregg Ward on “Scenes from a Diverse Community”. The breakout sessions include “Storytelling 101”, “Creativity at Work”, and “Maintaining Mental Fitness for Life”.

Today at 2:00, Sean Aiken will speak in the great hall of the Student Life Centre, describing his experience of doing 52 jobs in 52 weeks, and the “One Week Job Program” that grew out of it. All students and others are welcome.

Link of the day

Tartan Day

When and where

Library extended hours during exam season: March 27 to April 21, Davis Centre library open 24 hours (except Sunday 2 to 8 a.m.), Dana Porter Library open 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily.

Brain Day: Centre for Theoretical Neuroscience presents four invited speakers, from 9 a.m., PAS building room 2083. Details.

Grace Schaefer, office of the registrar, died April 1, funeral service 11:00, Church of St. John the Evangelist, Kitchener.

t’art Tech Art Exhibition of work from “technology art studio” course, Wednesday-Saturday at Artery Gallery, 156 King Street West, Kitchener; opening event tonight 6 p.m.

Perimeter Institute presents Sir Roger Penrose, University of Oxford, “Twistors and Quantum Non-Locality” 7:00, Waterloo Collegiate Institute. Details.

St. Jerome’s University symposium: “Responding to the Call: Building Healthcare Capacity in the Developing World” 7:30 p.m., St. Mary’s General Hospital, Kitchener.

Centre for Teaching Excellence instructional skills workshop, April 7, 8 and 11, all day. Details.

English Language Proficiency Exam Thursday, Physical Activities Complex. Details.

Applied health sciences public lecture: Alexis Morgan, Pembina Institute, “Canada’s Environmental Path — Jeopardizing Our Country’s Long-term Quality of Life?” Thursday 9:30, Sun Life Financial Auditorium, Lyle Hallman Institute.

Digital Media Series at Stratford campus: Katherine Acheson, department of English, “Digital Media and Historical Research” Thursday 7:00, 6 Wellington Street. Details.

Cinema Politica, sponsored by Waterloo Public Interest Research Group, shows “Black Gold” Thursday 7:00, Café Pyrus, 14 Charles Street West.

Critical Media Lab, department of English, presents “Cabs of Curiosity” digital media event, Thursday 7 to 11 p.m., 158 King Street West, Kitchener.

Winter term examinations April 8-21; unofficial grades begin to appear in Quest, April 22; grades become official, May 24.

EcoCAR educational luncheon showcasing hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, Friday 12:00, Student Design Centre, Engineering 5.

Explore the Hopewell Trail in Breslau, walk sponsored by UW Recreation Committee , Sunday 2:00.

Water Boys end-of-term a cappella concert Sunday 8:00, Theatre of the Arts, tickets $5 (students $2).

Town hall meeting for faculty and staff with president and vice-presidents, April 11, 3:00, Humanities Theatre; submit questions by e-mail to townhall@

Positions available

On this week's list from the human resources department, viewable through myHRinfo:

• Senior development officer, dean of engineering office, USG 11
• Building serviceperson I (carpenter), plant operations
• Financial aid assistant, registrar's office, USG 6
• Administrative assistant, political science, USG 7
• Information systems specialist, information systems and technology, USG 10-12 (two positions)
• Project manager, arts advancement (Fort McMurray, Alberta), dean of arts office, USG 9
• Financial reporting and insurance analyst, finance office, USG 12
• Faculty secretary, dean of engineering office, USG 7
• Undergraduate marketing and recruitment coordinator, dean of engineering office, USG 9

Yesterday's Daily Bulletin