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Happy Grad: Jaclyn Bristow

  Age: 26 Graduation Date: 2009 Major: Criminal Justice School: Ryerson University Current Position: Case Counsellor Specialist, WoodGreen Community Services  

Q: What was your biggest fear about leaving college and entering the “real world”?

My biggest fear was being unsure of how to find a job I loved with my lack of “real world” experience. I knew that I loved studying criminal justice, especially the topic of drug policy, but I wasn’t sure what real jobs existed in the field or how to access them. I delayed entering the “real world” temporarily by completing a 16-month Masters of Criminology, Applied degree at the University of Ottawa, which included two field placements. My first field placement directly connected with what I thought I wanted to do, but I discovered that government office work was just not compatible with my personality. My second field placement was a front-line role in addictions treatment, which ended up being something I loved. This allowed me to transition into a “real world” career in the social services field and the non-profit sector.

Q: What five words would you use to explain your job search as a recent grad?

Time-consuming, exciting, educational, resourceful, stressful.

Q: What is it about your situation now that makes you a happy grad?

I am a happy grad because I have a career that I love. Although my career does not appear to be directly connected with my educational background, I have been able to combine my research interest with my passion for advocacy, and translate this into a challenging position. While I was a student I was unsure of how to apply my education to a career, but my true interests and values were able to give me direction. I contribute to the community and assist individuals that are stigmatized and affected by systemic barriers.

Q: What advice would you give recent grads today about leaving college, and finding a career and life they love?

There are so many graduates out there with a degree, yet no experience to show for it. Separate yourself from the herd. Don’t wait until you graduate to begin gaining practical experience. Try new things to discover what you really like or dislike. Explore volunteering, programs that include co-op field placements, or external internships. Remember that education does not stop at graduation. Professional development courses can greatly develop your unique skills and interests. Don’t underestimate the power of networking. Forge positive relationships with as many professors, supervisors and co-workers as you can, and take the initiative to meet others in your industry.

Q. What are some of the best things about being a recent grad?

I love having a structured schedule that allows me to enjoy my evenings and weekends without thoughts of homework and studying looming over my head. Having a steady income is also a benefit as it allows me to really take advantage of this free time through traveling, going out with friends, and crossing items off my bucket list. Being a recent grad is also great in the professional sense, because I know that there are so many learning opportunities ahead of me and so many directions where I can take my career.
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