Class acts: Recent grads share tips on landing jobs in the tech industry

Class acts: Recent grads share tips on landing jobs in the tech industry

After university, these four go-getters successfully navigated a tough job market and kick-started their careers in tech. Here’s how they did it.

It’s no secret the job market is tough right now. Tech companies are trimming staff as they try to navigate high interest rates and inflation — Google has cut hundreds of jobs, Montreal-based commerce company Lightspeed announced it’s eliminating about 280 positions and Lion Electric is laying off 7 percent of its workforce. This means there are even fewer opportunities available for this year’s cohort of graduates. Canada’s unemployment rate hit 6.1 percent in March, up from 5.8 percent in February, and as recent research from RBC noted, students and new graduates are bearing the brunt of the slow job market.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. According to an April 2024 poll conducted by talent solution firm Robert Half, 64 percent of companies plan to hire entry-level professionals in the first half of 2024 — good news for those just starting their careers.

For many graduates, developing a strong network is key to landing that post-school gig. Connections alerted them to opportunities and provided crucial insights that helped make their applications stand out. Below, four recent grads break down how they landed jobs in tech and offer advice to the class of 2024.


Make networking work for you

Majd Khnouf
Age: 35
School: York University, Schulich School of Business
Program of study: Masters of Business Administration
Current role: Project Manager at Tidal Commerce

The job hunt: “I applied to close to 100 jobs after I graduated last June. My approach wasn’t great: I was applying blind and through company websites. I only got a couple of interviews. It’s hard to get a response from larger companies, which creates a lot of confusion: Should I go for the big companies or the smaller companies? Which is more stable? Where can I have a future? It’s all very stressful.”

Landing the role: “By September, I was getting worried. I remembered how much networking and making connections was emphasized at school. I had tried to avoid it in the past, but it was seeming impossible to avoid. After I applied for a job, I’d look if I had any connections at the company or I’d connect with alumni to see if the opportunity actually fit me. I also started attending Schulich Startups events to talk to hiring managers and my peers. Finally, someone I met through the MBA program let me know about this project manager opportunity, and I chatted with one of my professors who knows the founders. I got the job.”

Advice for this year’s grads: “ Put yourself out there, but make sure it’s in a way that is humble and where you can show your strength to the person in front of you. And never be afraid to ask for help or support — you’ll need that.”


Know who you are and craft your story

Shilpa Bhardwaj
Age: 26
School: McMaster University
Program of study: Biomedical Discovery and Commercialization
Current role: Product Manager at Cosm Medical

Getting a foot in the door: “Through my masters program, I did a co-op placement at Cosm Medical, a company that develops devices for pelvic floor issues. I had spent a full three months just reviewing job ads, optimizing my resume, networking, sending out 50 applications and going to interviews. I then landed the placement as a health economics and market access associate at Cosm.”

Shifting to a full-time role: “My co-op was initially meant to be four months. Then, it was extended to eight months — I was conducting primary market research and getting to know our customers. This deep understanding helped me bring valuable insights back into the company. So when a full-time role opened up, I was a good fit.”

What’s surprised her about the transition from work to school: “How much everyone is just figuring it out as they go. Not feeling 100 per cent prepared is completely normal. I had to learn that giving myself room to make mistakes — and learn from them — is important.”

Advice for this year’s grads: “Be authentic and personable. When you craft something — a cover letter, for example — you need good storytelling skills. Talking about your expertise is not always easy, but I’ve learned that something that’s more engaging right off the bat will stay in people’s minds. Who we are should be something we’re comfortable with and excited to share. That enthusiasm always comes through.”


Don’t give up, even if it seems like you can’t find a good fit

Samantha Paradi-Maropakis
Age: 23
School: University of Toronto
Program of study: Material Science Engineering
Upcoming role: Starting a year-long contract at Ripple Therapeutics this fall.

The job hunt: “At U of T engineering, we have a co-op program where you work for a whole year. My program is a little more niche than other types of engineering — you have to find those jobs and explain why they need you.”

Landing a role: “When I was applying for co-op positions, I wasn’t having any luck with the jobs on the school’s portal — they weren’t what I was looking for. So I started asking my professors if they knew any companies. One of them introduced me to someone who had transitioned from working in material engineering to biomaterials and biotech. We connected and I found out that a colleague at her lab works at Ripple, a biotech firm in Toronto. I reached out to them on LinkedIn. The person responded and said they were going to post on my school’s job board. A week later they posted it and I applied. Messaging them helped me stand out.”

Transitioning to a full-time role: “I had a great time as a co-op student. When I returned to U of T for my final year of undergrad, I knew I wanted to pursue a Masters, but I was debating taking a year off. Ripple reached out and asked if I’d like to come back for a year — it was very convenient.”

Advice for this year’s grads: “Don’t get disheartened, especially if you don’t find something right away. I sent out a lot of resumes. Staying positive and realizing that sometimes it’s not about you, it’s just about what the company is looking for — that can really help.”


Take advantage of your school’s resources

Sheli Rozenfeld
Age: 21
School attended: York University, Schulich School of Business
Program of study: Business Administration
Current role: Analyst at Cap Inclusive

Landing the job: “I took a venture capital class in third year without knowing anything about the industry at all, and it was co-taught by Althea Wishloff, partner at Raven Indigenous Capital Partners, and Sarah Willson, associate at Panache Ventures. That’s where I became enamored with the innovation ecosystem and decided it was where I wanted to be. Sarah emailed to say she might have an opportunity I’d be interested in, which was the internship for Cap Inclusive. She introduced me to the CEO and I started a few weeks later.”

How her program helped: “Schulich gave me an amazing foundation in business principles across all sectors — accounting, finance, data analysis, marketing and management — which are critical to my role. The networking opportunities were also helpful. I was never particularly keen on the idea of joining clubs or going to events, but the thing I appreciated about my program is that the professors have real experience in what they are teaching. Professors would also do their best to bring in guest lecturers from relevant industries to help students expand their networks.”

Advice for this year’s grads: “Use your university’s resources extensively. Don’t be like me — join a club and go to events, because you never know who you are going to meet. Networking is so important. Look at my story: it doesn’t matter how many applications you put through, it’s your network that will reward you in the end, not your cover letter.”

Visit the MaRS Tech Job Board, your go-to resource for kickstarting your career in the innovation community.