Melody Bagaa is one of many recent university graduates — in Canada and around the world —who faced the unenviable task of hunting for a job in a world rattled by COVID-19.
A native of Mongolia, Bagaa came to Canada in 2016 in hopes of breaking into the finance industry through the University of Toronto Scarborough’s co-op program.
Through the program, she worked stints at BMO Financial Group and the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada – experiences that had made her confident in her ability to land a job after graduation last November.
“When I started my degree, the job market was okay,” says Bagaa, who earned a bachelor of business administration degree.
“Then COVID-19 happened, and the job market was practically frozen. I didn’t know how long it would take to find a job. Everything was uncertain.”
Bagaa tried not to panic. Instead, she harnessed U of T’s resources and alumni – even building a personal alumni network on LinkedIn – and ultimately landed a job at a Toronto investment advisory and consulting firm amid the upheaval.
One of the first things Bagaa did was sign up for U of T Scarborough’s Job Seekers Club, a four-week program operated by the campus’s Academic Advising & Career Centre. Through the program, Bagaa picked up job search strategies as well as resume and cover letter-writing skills.
The members of the club, which included other students in addition to career specialists, met via Zoom and rehearsed for interviews together. They critiqued each other’s performances and gave suggestions on how to improve.
The club is one of many services across the three campuses supporting students and recent grads in their job search.
Others include the I Need to Get a Job Club, which targets recent graduates, and Flexible Futures, which offers a range of career-related workshops for graduate students. There’s also a career guide for trans and non-binary students.
At U of T Mississauga, the Career Centre Networking Series brings students, recent graduates, alumni and industry professionals together for career exploration and networking opportunities. The campus also has programs that offer access to placements with employers interested in hiring new graduates and resources for job searching in a virtual world.
“Across all three campuses, our emphasis has been on connecting students and graduates with alumni and industry professionals to provide insight into how the pandemic is changing industries, organizations and roles,” says Heather Kelly, executive director, Student Life programs and services.
“We want to do whatever we can to help current students and recent alumni with their job search during COVID-19.”
Using LinkedIn, Bagaa created her own personal alumni network. Through the employment site search function, she found U of T alumni already working in her field. Bagaa sent out emails asking alumni for advice or to connect her to finance jobs. Many of them responded immediately. Some tipped her off to job openings or referred her to their companies.
“These alumni on LinkedIn and friends who graduated before me were all very supportive,” Bagaa said. “They would send me job listings all the time.”
She also received a referral through U of T Scarborough’s The Bridge, which supports experiential learning for business, finance and entrepreneurship.
Bagaa’s rising optimism about her job search was in stark contrast to her outlook during the early days of the pandemic.
She recalls feeling jealous when she thought of her friends and family back in Mongolia, where the number of COVID-19 cases was relatively low last spring. Bagaa says she even contemplated flying home since Mongolia’s economy had not been impacted to the same extent as Canada’s – possibly improving her chances of finding work.
She ultimately found her current job as an investment analyst at BULLWEALTH on U of T’s CLNx (Career & Co-Curricular Learning Network) job portal. Her application was bolstered by her various co-op experiences and the interview coaching she received as part of the job-seekers club – and U of T’s reputation for producing some of the world’s most employable graduates probably didn’t hurt either.
Bagaa began her new role the weekend of her virtual convocation.
“I want to continue to develop my career and pursue more responsibilities,” Bagaa says.
“Maybe I’ll get an MBA. I’m still trying to figure it out, but I definitely like where I am right now. I love my team, I love my work. I want to learn and grow within the company and try to bring some great projects forward.”