7 pieces of advice for the Class of 2021 from Arts alumni

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Your UBC journey doesn’t end with graduation. In fact, it’s just the beginning. As you graduate, you become part of a global community of over 100,000 Arts alumni—that’s 100,000 potential mentors and friends; 100,000 stories; and 100,000 lessons learned.

To help you in the next step of your journey, we spoke to Arts alumni to distill seven pieces of wisdom for the Class of 2021.

1. Be flexible with your plans

When Vera Sudakova (BA’20, English Language & Literature) graduated in May 2020, all her plans crumbled due to the global pandemic. “I had plans to move to Montreal post-graduation and look for a job, and I had no idea if that could still be possible. It felt like the future I had been preparing for just fell apart.”

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Vera Sudakova

Stuck at home during the pandemic, Vera did what we all did: watched Netflix. On Dragons’ Den, she discovered an app that connects businesses with apprentices willing to work for free and immediately signed up to start gaining experience. “Over the summer, I wrote blogs and audited Google ads for a breast cancer charity, helped a Spanish language school in the U.S. launch a new online course, and wrote articles about real estate for a finance firm.” At the end of her apprenticeships, Vera was offered two positions. “That’s how I got hired as a Content Manager at Chelle Service Capital Inc.”

“It’s quite an unusual way to find your first job, but then again, we were in a very unusual year.”

2. Learn what networking really means

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Stephen Morgan

“Often, we talk about networking as if it’s a popularity contest, which is not very useful,” says Stephen Morgan (BA’13, English). Networking isn’t about having the biggest number of connections on LinkedIn. The first rule of networking is simple: stay in touch with people you already know, including the friends and professors you’ve built relationships with throughout your undergrad.

The second step might be more intimidating: making professional connections in your field. But Stephen insists that with the right approach, it can be simple. “[Networking] is just knowing your market and knowing the people that are in the world that you’re entering.” That can happen through meetups, informational interviews, or asking someone you know for a connection.

“If you see someone with a career that you think is interesting, you can email them and ask them for 15 minutes of their time to ask three specific questions based on their career… People who you might think are way out of your league will probably say yes to you.”

3. Be open to unexpected directions

The path after graduation isn’t always a linear one. This was certainly true for Terry Lum (BA’98, Geography), who landed a job in Japan after graduation, then became a business advisor, then managed his wife’s business, then ended up working at colleges. Now he’s Director of Operations at Vancouver Premier College.

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Terry Lum

“Working in the education sector was nowhere on my radar while I was a student,” Terry says. “I had about four turns in my path and each was related to changes in direction, ambition, and one just by chance.”

Being patient and curious can lead you in directions you never imagined. “Sometimes you have to look for new opportunities and sometimes they come to you. For me it was a combination of both,” Terry says.

“Try everything, try all the things and figure out what you really like... Because to be honest, you truly can do anything.”
BA'07, History

4. Leverage your Arts degree

Adrian Liem (BA’00, Psychology) chose psychology because he wanted to understand the foundational question of “why we do what we do.” Inspired by a professor who taught organizational behavior, he has been applying those principles to his work throughout his career, and in his personal life too.

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Adrian Liem

“From what I have observed, a psychology degree is as valuable as you make it,” Adrian says. “The real value is in drawing connections to the things you continue to learn and observe throughout all aspects of your life … There is a strong foundation that you can continue to build on as you go through new work and life experiences, but it’s really up to you to make those connections.”

As an Arts alum, you possess skills that will continually open doors throughout your career. From written communication, critical thinking, to cross-disciplinary connections, you may be surprised by the myriad ways your Arts skills can be applied.

5. Be patient and ask the right questions

Reflecting on the challenges he’s faced in his career, Spencer Lindsay (BA’11, First Nations & Indigenous Studies) admits it was sometimes because he was attracted to the job title. “I didn’t ask enough questions about, ‘What does the work entail? Who will I be working with?’”

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Spencer Lindsay

Working with the right people can ultimately be more important than the ideal job.

“You really have to interview the people that you’re working for,” says Spencer. “It’s hard, especially as a young person not to just think, ‘Wow, they’re actually taking a chance on me, I should take it.’ I’ve learned through my career that it’s as much about where I want to be, and who I’m working with, than trying to fit the mold.”

Working with people you can trust and be vulnerable with can often bring out your best work.

“Embrace uncertainty. Write your own story. Be relentlessly curious. Reject any crippling pressure to make the 'right' move. There are no wrong decisions. Just decisions.”
BA’10 Sociology

6. Create a portfolio

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Hugh Knapp

In addition to a resume, a portfolio can help demonstrate the skills you’ve developed throughout your education. “A paper that you wrote could go into a portfolio; it does not need to be strictly visual,” says Hugh Knapp (BA ’18), a sociology graduate now working as a design researcher at IBM.

“The portfolio helps in job interviews as they give you the opportunity to drive discussion and tell stories about your experiences and capabilities in a really engaging way.”

7. Tap into UBC career resources

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Lina Zdruli

Even though you may be leaving campus, the UBC community will always have your back. “Tap into ecosystems and resources. There’s no reason to do it by yourself,” says Lina Zdruli (BA’14, International Relations).

As a UBC alum, you have exclusive access to a vast array of services and supports through the alumni UBC Career Development program. You can explore job opportunities and employer events by visiting Your Next Step and CareersOnline. This includes practical tips about job hunting, ways to talk to employers about your Arts degree, job boards and employer info sessions.

“Attend every conference and panel you can outside your field,” says Lina. “You never know what new topic can change the direction of your interests, or which encounter can open a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

“Keep learning and following your curiosity even after graduation. It's surprising how your interests and passions can change as you try out career paths, meet new people and engage with your community.”
BMus'97, MMus'01

Go forth Class of 2021! We’ve got your back.

From practical workshops to alumni networks – we’ve collected resources to help you launch your career as you start your next chapter.