With university and college convocations just around the corner, there are a lot of soon-to-be graduates worried about the prospective job market.

Many of them entered programs like engineering four years ago, thinking they would be set when they walked across the stage in 2016. But now, they are faced with a totally different reality — widespread layoffs, a struggling oil and gas sector and a gloomy outlook for the economy. 

Despite all this, it's still possible to make it in today's job market, says Richard Bucher, a senior consultant with Right Management, a Calgary-based talent and career management company.

Change the myth

Bucher recently spoke to a group of young petroleum engineers about branding.

"I asked them, 'what's the most commonly held myth about you?'" Bucher told the Calgary Eyeopener. "They all said, '[that] we don't know anything.'"

"They come out of school with a presumption that an employer is thinking they don't know anything."

That's the first thing that needs to change, Bucher said.

"That's not unique to engineers in training," he said, "You need to shift the belief in the employer market from, 'you don't know anything at all,' to 'that's really quite impressive what you do know and what you've experienced.'"

Build relevant experience

While Bucher acknowledged that for many students, making money throughout the summer is often the first priority, he urged them to find jobs in their field.

"You want to have a resume that speaks to accomplishments." he said. "I understand that having an income through the summer is important, and work is important."

richard bucher

Richard Bucher is a senior consultant with Right Management, a Calgary-based talent and career management company. (Submitted to CBC)

Expand your reach

Searching for jobs outside the province should be a "very serious consideration" if a student doesn't think they'll be able to land a job in Alberta within a reasonable time frame, Bucher said.

He also advised students to avoid specializing too heavily in one area. 

"Depending on where I am in my program, I want to make sure I have as broad a reach with my degree when I finish as possible," he said. 

Create a 'personal board of directors'

Bucher's biggest piece of advice to soon-to-be graduates and young professionals is to take advantage of the network they already have.

"Every single human being you know is part of your network," he said. "The sooner you accept that, the sooner you benefit from it."

One way to do that is to create what Bucher calls a "personal board of directors."

"These are people who would be mentors to you," he explained. "They're certainly senior to who you are, who would take an active interest in helping you get a foothold."

"They would introduce you to people, potentially build opportunities for you and provide you guidance about the roles you should be looking at, the relationships that you should be building, the kind of experience that you should be acquiring as you grow into your career."

He said many people who are quite a few years into their careers are often flattered to be asked for guidance.

"My hope would be every student coming out of university would come out with a personal board of directors," Bucher said.


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener