Guide to getting a job, McGill style

01 Sep, 2004

As scores of McGill students return to Montreal, those who have spent the summer working and saving money by living at home may take the end-of-summer cash surplus for granted. But after Frosh week dies out and Open Air Pub (OAP) shuts down, many will emerge from the drunken oblivion to find their bank account balances dwindling. The most proactive way to deal with this all too cliché university student problem is to find a job.

While there is plenty of work to be had around town, the more coveted on-campus job is scant and hard to find. Students who are not Canadian or who don’t speak French may have a hard time finding a job outside the confines of the Roddick Gates.

On-campus employment is ideal for several reasons. First, employers understand that their workers are students and have schedules that are already very busy. Most on-campus employers factor this into the hiring process and offer hours that work around complicated class schedules. Also, full-time students simply cannot devote enough time to extracurricular work to get an off-campus, part-time job. McGill’s Work Study Program website recommends that full-time students work no more than 15 hours per week to avoid overloading their schedules.

Another reason to scout an on-campus job is the location. Since students already have demanding schedules, having a job in a library, in the Bronfman basement or at a Residence cafeteria is extremely convenient and frees up time that might otherwise be spent commuting.

In addition, any McGill student can get an on-campus job. Whereas above-board, off-campus jobs are limited to Canadian citizens and permanent residents, international students can obtain legal work on campus without violating their study permits. So long as they are employed on grounds owned, leased or rented by McGill, students with study permits are in the clear.

For the student looking for an on-campus job, there are two main routes to take: apply for the Work Study Program or look for a non-Work Study job. Some oncampus jobs, such as library or clerical in many McGill offices, are traditionally available only through the Work Study Program.

Employers prefer to employ students through the Work Study Program because they can obtain subsidised labour costs. Oncampus employers must apply to have their projects accepted for the program, and qualified employers are reimbursed for 50% of the hourly wage rate paid to students (up to a maximum of $4.50/hour).

This subsidy can be applied to a maximum of 250 job hours per semester, which works out to 20 to 25 hours per week per project. Students can split these projects, bringing each student’s weekly hours on the job down to a reasonable level.

The Arts Undergraduate Society and the Science Undergraduate Society also provide additional, but highly limited funding, to subsidize 100% of the wages of career-related positions for students in their respective faculties, or up to $9.00/hour. These jobs usually consist of research and lab work.

Any employer with available positions that are on campus and that pay at least minimum wage can apply for wage subsidies through the Work Study Program, but some choose not to apply. Furthermore, those who apply are not necessarily accepted.

Both Canadian citizens/permanent residents and international students with a valid study permit can qualify for Work Study. In order to be accepted, a student must be matriculated in a full-time undergraduate or graduate degree program, be in satisfactory academic standing and demonstrate financial need for the coming school year. Preference is given to students who do not have the financial resources to cover their educational expenses (i.e., expenses such as McGill tuition and fees), and one of the factors that is looked at when selecting students is whether or not they have taken out government loans.

There are four rounds of applications held per year: two for the fall semester, one during the winter semester and one for the summer semester. Both students and employers find out approximately two weeks after the application deadline whether or not they are accepted to the program. The number of students accepted is a function of the number of employer projects accepted. Sandy Chopko, Office Administrator at the Student Aid office, says that about twice as many students are accepted as there are work-study jobs in a given application round.

Jobs available through the Work Study Program include clerical work at various McGill offices, research assistance, accounting, library shelving and laboratory assistance.

While Work Study may seem flawless, there are downsides. Since limited funding is available, students need to demonstrate significant need in order to be accepted to the program. Students who are looking for a little extra pocket cash or who don’t want to run to the “Bank of Mom & Dad” every time funds get low, may want to look elsewhere for work. Also, since employers can only get up to $4.50 reimbursed per hour, they tend to not pay more than they have to. As a result, an hourly wage cap at $9.00/hour is set.

For those who are not accepted for the Work Study Program, the next step is to look for a non- Work Study job. These are a little harder to find because unlike Work Study jobs, there is not one centralised student job posting location where every available position is listed. Some good places to start are the McGill Human Resources website’s listing of available positions and the Career and Placement Services (CAPS) website. The McGill HR website has available positions listed by week and is often very limited in what it can offer for students.

The CAPS website, however, may prove to be a student’s most valuable resource. Not only does the website contain a listing of potential research-related positions for science students, but by registering at the CAPS office in the Brown Student Services Building, students can gain access to a comprehensive job posting site. These listings can then be filtered to view oncampus, non career-related or career-related jobs.

This service is available to current students in any faculty, including undergraduate, graduate and Continuing Education students, as well as to recent graduates. McGill graduates may take advantage of this service for free for one year after graduation and for a nominal fee for two years thereafter.

Graduate students also have their own career advisor at the CAPS office, Jeff Osweiler. Continuing Education students will have to make adjustments to their student services fees in order to access the job posting website.

Employers posting jobs though CAPS do so by notifying the office that they are hiring. On-campus jobs that are typically advertised include office work at various McGill offices, laboratory work, service positions, jobs at McGill residences and non-McGill food providers (such as at the Tiki Ming in the Shatner Building). Nicholas Calamatas, the non-career Student Employment Assistant at CAPS, stresses that all students can apply for jobs listed in the non-career, on-campus job postings, even international students. Many such positions that become available through CAPS are not actually posted by McGill itself, but are from businesses such as Café Rama and Tiki Ming that operate on campus.

But Calamatas reminds students that non-Work Study jobs on campus are in short supply. “The number of jobs that I have is limited compared to the number of jobs available through Work Study,” he says. “It’s a question of supply and demand.” Some jobs, such as the residence cafeterias and the McGill bookstore, get so many walk-in applicants that they do not even need to list their openings in the CAPS job listings.

As valuable as this resource is, you may still have to resort to pounding the pavement in order to find an on-campus job. Sometimes, the best jobs are the ones that were difficult to find and that weren’t clearly posted.

Nina Thompson, a U3 Management student and server at the Bishop Mountain Hall Cafeteria, says that hers is one of the most preferable jobs on campus. “We get to talk all the time to either other people working there, the first years, or the caf ladies. We’re treated like family and we feel like we are responsible for the caf. We don’t have someone breathing down our necks every five seconds about some sort of protocol.”

Interviews for many on campus jobs are much like those for any part-time job. “It was about fifteen minutes where [the supervisor] asked me about certain things on my résumé, and about different situations that might occur at the cafeteria and how I would handle them.” Other, more career-related oncampus positions may have a more intense interviewprocess.

Finding, interviewing for and holding down an on-campus job will prove to be a good exercise for the post-graduation job search. Employers in the “real world” look favourably on applicants who were able to maintain structured responsibility during university. And once your pockets have been lined with a little McGill-provided cash, the oncampus job search will seem well worth the effort.

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