If I had a Telfer time machine, here’s everything I would do differently and everything I would do the same in order to graduate from business school without regrets. If you’re reading this before entering your first year, you’re in a great position to make a plan. If you’ve partially completed your degree and don’t feel entirely fulfilled, I urge you to read on and explore some of the opportunities mentioned -- it’s never too late!
Regardless of your program of study, making the most of your education goes beyond the classroom. It’s who you meet, who you talk to, and what you challenge yourself with. Now, it doesn’t need to be a point of stress; I have some strategies to help you enforce and enjoy balance throughout your business degree. Enough with the preamble, I’m going to show you how to graduate from business school without regrets.
Everything I Got Right
This isn’t a magic formula, but by taking good advice and seeking opportunities of my own, here’s what worked out well for me! First, let’s take a look at program-specific tips.
Use an Agenda or Planner
Simple and essential! If you’re doing this already, keep it up.
I was fortunate to receive one in my Telfer 101 week welcome kit, but if you didn’t get one, the UOSO sometimes offers complimentary agendas at the start of each new academic year.
Time management is the key to life. Write all your deadlines down. Section parts of your day around classes dedicated to studying and save time for yourself as well.
Smartphones and online calendars work great for many people, but if you’re prone to get carried away on your phone after a harmless notification check, I recommend entertaining the low-tech option of pencil and paper to minimize distractions and help with visualization.
I strongly recommend this QUO VADIS Textagenda - it has awesome features and it is reasonably priced at less than $20. This agenda is a perfect size, and you can recycle the paper once you are done with it, and reuse the cover. I picked mine up at the uOttawa Boutique Campus Store.
You’ll hear the suggestion to join clubs no less than 416 times throughout your undergraduate career, so you might as well embrace it.
Joining clubs is often such a fulfilling experience. By joining the executive team, you organize and run events for your members, which looks great on your resume, but is also a ton of fun!
If you can’t handle the time commitment, then join clubs as a member for access to events for free or at a reduced rate for the premium ones.
Check out the full list of Telfer Clubs and Association, and find what intrigues you!
Talk to your Professors Outside of Class
Office hours are great for asking specific questions and getting one-on-one instruction from your professors, but aside from that, you should get to know them!
You could ask them about their passions and experiences. Some of the most impactful, meaningful conversations in my experience have taken place this way. Studying in an online environment doesn’t have to change this. I can safely say I’ve made some great connections over Zoom this past year! Professors can offer great career advice and potentially connect you with individuals from their network who can provide guidance in your particular area of interest if they cannot.
Participating in extracurricular activities like case competitions, internally hosted through Telfer and externally through CABS, is one of the best things that you can do as a business student!
I joined JDCC in my third year and can say that with the right mentorship, your ability to work under pressure and deliver effective presentations will improve exponentially.
Aside from your own personal growth, there’s often the opportunity to win cash or other prizes, and if you still aren’t sold (you should be), employers love to see this involvement on a resume. It speaks to your ability to time-manage, collaborate, and overcome challenges. For more information, check out Three Reasons Why You Should Participate in a Telfer Case Competition.
Here's an example of how this will help you in job interviews:
Recruiter: Tell me about a time when you had to manage conflict.
Recruiter: Tell me about a time when you had to exhibit leadership.
Recruiter: Wow! Okay, but aside from JDCC, tell me about a time…
You: (talk about how you seized every other opportunity I’ve described here that helped you learn/grow)
Attend Networking Events
The Telfer Career Centre organizes great opportunities to talk to recruiters from a multitude of companies. Sign in to Career Launch and look at the calendar of events, schedule time to attend, and research the companies you’re interested in before attending events that they will be at.
In this program, you can receive mentorship from an industry professional, benefit from career advice, ask questions, have your resume reviewed, tour their office, maybe even sit in on some meetings!
Keep your eye out for these special Administration (ADM) courses like ADM 4396, ADM 3396 or ADM 3313. These are unique opportunities that help you make the most of your ADM electives. I also highly recommend the Preparation for Business Case class (ADM 3994/4994).
Apply to be a Teaching Assistant
Apply, apply, apply! The University will email you in advance of the application window with the available teaching assistant and grader positions. Record this in your planner! If you’ve studied hard and earned exceptional grades, apply for all the positions you’re interested in. If you like to work with students directly, consider ADM 1300 (Introduction to Business) or ADM 2381 (Business Communication Skills).
Studying Outside of your Room
Sometimes taking a break from studying in your room, and changing up your location can help you get more schoolwork done. The uOttawa library has designated silent floors. Keep your phone on silent and out of sight, really get into the flow and be productive.
Physical activity is so beneficial! A great opportunity to socialize, make friends, and share some laughs is to sign up for intramural sports teams. This brings some structure into your week and ensures that you set time aside for yourself which can help you to refresh your focus. There are tons of intramural spots available on campus.
If you qualify for financial support and would like to work part-time during the semester, explore the Work-Study Program for jobs located on campus. Hours are usually very reasonable, allowing you to earn some money while managing your school workload.
Things I wish I could have done better
Apply to Specialized Telfer Practical Programs
If you enjoy the challenge of solving problems and presenting solutions through case competitions, a career in consulting may be for you. If I could go back, I would not have let this program pass by. The Profession of Management Consulting Program (PMCP) is a two-year development program for Telfer School of Management students who are interested in working on their consulting skills. You can participate in workshops and simulations facilitated by professionals in the industry.
Remain in the Co-op Program
I opted out in my second-year for personal reasons, planning to secure an internship on my own. I was offered one, but things fell through. It happens!
Co-op roles are more secure in that way (employers receive competitive incentives via education tax credits, so they benefit greatly from hiring students), and you’ll be guaranteed to graduate with some formal, work experience in your field. You may be skeptical about the fees or the workload involved, but it’s well worth it.
Some important tips:
Network with individuals from companies early on. If you get some facetime with recruiters after meeting them at a networking event, this will increase your chances of succeeding in your interview. Show interest and ask questions when you met the recruiter.
If you can, consider experimenting with both the public and private sector to figure out the work pace and environment that you most enjoy.
Meet People from Different Faculties and Programs
If case competitions appeal to you, monitor the engineering and science faculties. Explore the possibility of membership to their clubs, and attend their social events. Attend even if they’re online game nights, tournaments, and more! You can partner with other students within these specializations and bring your business understanding to create a highly functional team.
Loved the arts in high school? There’s a number of dance clubs practicing in UCU at any given time. Join an improv or theatre club!, or start your own club here!
Grab a friend and take walks, prioritize some time for adventure and discovery in the city of Ottawa. If you don’t opt for the dining hall meal plan, consider supporting some local restaurants or cafés.
Soak up the full experience. Studies are important, but I encourage you to prioritize your time in a way that you are able to take personal excursions periodically. Make the most of the fall and spring, since winter treks can be difficult. Be sure to ice skate on the canal -- it’s a rite of passage.
I have never spent an entire summer living in Ottawa and I deeply regret it. I planned to spend summer 2020 exploring, but that didn’t quite go according to plan! Learn from my mistakes!
Apply for Scholarships
A large majority of scholarships offered through the uOttawa Online Scholarships and Bursaries portal have deadlines in early to mid-fall. Apply to as many as you’re eligible for, and keep a good record of the requirements for each. Keep copies of the applications you submit, and improve them.
Many scholarships require you to write an essay, but often it can be on a subject that matters to you! Pick something special and share the contents of your heart on paper. You can reuse this essay for multiple different opportunities, so submit them continually! Time spent on this early on will pay off if you stay diligent and continue to apply!
If you’re willing to commit hours to volunteer, I highly recommend this. No, actually, I BEG you to set time aside. Use the Community Engagement / Volunteering portal to find the best opportunities for you to get involved and build your co-curricular record. This will make you a phenomenally compelling candidate for scholarships, aside from the numerous standing benefits associated.
Become a Community Advisor or Student Mentor
If you’re a strong bilingual candidate and loved the convenience and atmosphere of residence life, considering becoming a Community Advisor or Student Mentor. A perk of employment is living in residence rent-free!
Summary of Key Takeaways
If you’ve made it this far in the article, you’ve got what it takes to achieve great things.
- Relationships are huge! The current world environment in 2020 presents its challenges when it comes to building a connection, but your efforts are well worthwhile.
- Challenge yourself! Stress can be harmful, but eustress is where growth comes from.
- Enforce balance between your classes and your personal passions. Honour your commitments and do right by your group obligations, but make time for yourself.
- Embrace diversity! Open your mind to new thoughts and activities. You’ll learn so much and make new friends.