Finding a job after graduating from university can be a stressful time for students. The void of the “real word” laying before them, their anxieties can go into overdrive: how do you apply what you learned at university to an actual job? Where does the job search even begin? And, once you’re in a job, how can you successfully advance your career?
Chloe Chalmers, manager of the University of Alberta alumni career services, had been hearing these as well as many other panicked questions from both students and alumni for a while. While her office does host some professional development events in Edmonton, she worried about the alumni who aren’t able to attend the in-person events. So she decided the best way to reach all students and alumni (no matter where they are in the world), was a to launch a career advice podcast called What the Job?
Each episode features an in-depth interview with a U of A alumnus, where they discuss their unique career path. Ms. Chalmers reached out to her colleague Matt Rea, a communications strategist in the U of A office of advancement (where alumni career services is also housed), whom she knew did some podcasting in his spare time.
“He was the first person I thought of to host it. He’s a terrific journalist, a wonderful interviewer and I knew that he would get the tone right,” she says.
Dr. Rea jumped at the chance to host the podcast, as he loves the accessibility of the interview format – which he and Ms. Chalmers agreed should focus on the interviewee’s personal career story.
“The interviews are really organic. It’s not really about doing a lot of prep in advance, it’s more about having that person talk and reacting to what they say. It was important to figure out the key direction that we wanted [the podcast] to go, so we learned that it is important to ask people about their volunteer history, about how mentorship has played a role, and about times that they felt that they were stuck,” says Dr. Rea, who is himself a U of A alumnus.
Officially launched in October 2019, What the Job? currently releases two episodes a month: one feature-length interview with a U of A grad and a shorter mini-episode featuring a guest from the U of A career services office, talking about a specific topic, like preparing for an interview or how to use LinkedIn.
The mini-episodes were added to the roster when Dr. Rea and Ms. Chalmers quickly identified that while it’s great to hear about someone’s learned experience, a novice job seeker also needs to know some practical, real steps take to getting a job, which only a career centre employee can address since they are entrenched in that world.
“We asked our colleagues at the career centre what questions they got asked the most, and said let’s record those answers so we can share them more broadly, as not everyone is able to come into the career centre,” says Ms. Chalmers.
So far the audience feedback has been very positive say the pair, with U of A alumni contacting them from as far away as Uganda who want to share their career stories on the podcast. “It’s been a really unexpected delight,” says Ms. Chalmers.
Ultimately the number one goal is that people are helped by the podcast, says Dr. Rea. The duo want the advice to be practical and easily applicable. But Dr. Rea also hopes that by listening to the one-on-one interviews people recognize that alumni are a resource.
“The alumni association is a resource of course – it has services that can help them. But there are also alumni networks that can be a resource to them, and alumni are willing to help one another.”
Are you an UAlberta alumni and want to share your career story? Contact the What the Job podcast.