Author Archive | Robert W.

LinkedIn is a Tool

Image by Shekhar_Sahu, Flickr

Image by Shekhar_Sahu, Flickr

Networking is primarily the art of connecting with peers and colleagues to further your career advancement and development through mutual and beneficial cooperation. Unfortunately, most recent grads ultimately fail to realize that networking is not about taking, but also about giving.

Networking is one of the most valuable tools in job searching, and unfortunately for most, does not come easily. LinkedIn is a valuable and accessible social networking tool, with over 300 million users worldwide, that all professionals and recent graduates should use to connect and interact with prospective employers. Here’s a list of five LinkedIn job search and networking tips:

1. LinkedIn is a job board

LinkedIn is not just about connecting with professionals – it is also a career centre. As of right now there are over 76,000 Canadian job postings (you’ll see this number change on a daily basis). Job postings through LinkedIn are important because they give you more access to prospective employers – usually the job poster’s profile is attached to the listing. Take some time to do some research of not only the company, but also of the hiring manager or recruiter. This is valuable and insightful information that is often not available when applying through traditional job boards like Workopolis or Monster.

2. Make connections

Don’t be afraid to make connections with senior management in your career field. LinkedIn is a perfectly acceptable method of introduction, whether it be through one of your existing contacts or not. For example: decide on an industry you want to enter, find a company you want to work for, do some research on the company, as well as its employees, and connect with HR managers by way of introduction through a mutual acquaintance or by approaching them yourself.

An example could be messaging the hiring manager of a small manufacturing company: “Hi, X. My name is Robert and I wanted to connect with you because I have an interest in working with your company. I noticed on your company website that you are looking for a production supervisor. I think I would be a great fit for this opportunity because of A, B and C.”

In the example above remember that networking is based on reciprocity; professionals do not connect with other professionals without a reason, or without the expectation that you can help one another. In this example you are connecting with someone because you feel you are a qualified candidate. You benefit by getting a job, and your connection benefits by potentially filling one of their roles. You’ve also stuck out from the crowd, made initial contact with the hiring manager, and skipped the queue all in one connection. I would also advise following up with a phone call the next day.

3. LinkedIn lets you scope out the competition

There are few professional social media outlets that let you browse your direct competition. Although job applications are confidential, LinkedIn does let you look at professionals similar to yourself. Use this to improve your profile and resume. Obviously do not steal people’s job description bullet points, but look at the professionals in your industry and see how you measure up, where you can improve, and what you are good at.

4. Wisdom from your peers

LinkedIn is a pool of wisdom if you’re willing to look for it. There are options on LinkedIn to “follow” (not connect) with “LinkedIn Influencers.” Use this to your advantage, and take note of what industry leaders have to say about a variety of personal and professional issues.

5. Groups

Join groups with other like-minded professionals in your field or location. There’s a mountain of wealth to be learned in LinkedIn groups, and they also provide a way to align your connections and network along your chosen career path. Job searching is increasingly turning to social media and online profiles, and professional groups are often where peers and colleagues congregate to discuss industry hot button topics, opportunities, market trends and more.

 
Read more on LinkedIn here:

5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Use a Recruiter

Image by Mays Business School at Texas A&M University, Flickr

Image by Mays Business School at Texas A&M University, Flickr

My last article laminated the reasons why you should use a recruiter – whether you’re actively looking or just browsing new opportunities. In the interest of fairness I now present five reasons why you shouldn’t use a recruiter.

  1. It puts an expensive price tag on your head

    Using recruiters is expensive. As such, employers often turn to recruiters as a last resort – sometimes they have a niche job, a dry market or simply don’t have time to go through the whole hiring process themselves. Recruiters in turn are beneficial to employers because they fill their inbox with qualified candidates. However, the price to employ those candidates often comes with a 20% commission payment. If candidates are not in the 1%, often employers will pass and go with other, less expensive, candidates.

  2. Recruiters can sully your name

    Like everything in life, make your choices wisely – if you work with a recruiter, make sure you choose a reputable one. I recently had a candidate that did not know he had applied over three times to the same position. It was because he had been working with a recruiter in the past that had essentially spammed his resume to several companies. My client obviously passed on his application, and unfortunately he missed out on an opportunity because someone else dragged his reputation through mud.

  3. Recruiters do not care about you.

    I touched on this in my previous article, and it sounds harsh, but remember that recruiters do not necessarily care if you get the job. If you’re the only one in contention, then they want you to get the job. If there are three of you in a pool, they have no preference that you get the job – only that one of you does.

  4. One potato, two potato, three potato, DROPPED!

    Although it’s in the recruiters best interest to get you hired, they will drop you if they do not think your skills are marketable to their clients. Therein lies a false sense of security for candidates who use recruiters. Most recruiters wait for job orders that match the skills of one of their candidates; most do not actively look for something for you.

  5. It takes the networking out of job hunting

    I know it’s difficult to network, and I know using a recruiter skirts your responsibility to network. Recruiters are great because they tap into their network and source opportunities. However, if you’re in the market and actively looking for employment, but choose to use a recruiter, you are robbing yourself of the opportunity to build a network of your own.

Conclusion

All in all I still think it is a good idea to use recruiters to supplement your job search. Above are five reasons why you should be, at the least, hesitant about using head hunters. Reason number one – that it costs businesses money to hire you – is a big one. It is often not the best idea to use executive recruiters for entry or low entry jobs. Reason number five is also very important – such a large percentage of hiring is done through networking. Do not deprive yourself of that tool.

5 Reasons Recent Grads Should Consider Using a Headhunter

Image by thetaxhaven, Flickr

Image by thetaxhaven, Flickr

After graduating university I struggled for several months to find gainful employment. Unfortunately this is a sad reality for many recent graduates in Canada. However, through hard work and dedication it is possible to discover jobs and opportunities. This can be daunting for some recent graduates, who may not be used to networking and connecting with your peers and prospective employees.

Now, as an executive recruiter, it is my responsibility to pair business professionals with new opportunities that they may not be aware of. There are recruiters in Canada that specialize in recent grads, and using a recruiter has boundless advantages. Below are five reasons why I think you should consider using a headhunter.

1) They don’t cost you anything
Job agencies take a percentage of your wage to reimburse their expenses. Recruitment firms, however, are paid by the client (your potential employer). The candidate (you) is not required to pay any costs at all. If a head hunter approaches you and asks for money upfront you should not employ their services. In theory, headhunters are motivated to find you employment because that is how they are paid. They are also an important ally in negotiating compensation because their commission is based on your salary.

2) Your application goes to the top of the pile
Your resume bypasses other external candidates and goes straight to human resources and the hiring manager. If you are working with a reputable recruitment firm then chances are the client trusts that the presented candidates are top quality, and are therefore more likely to be reviewed. Furthermore, many job opportunities are not even advertised externally and often headhunters and recruiters are working exclusively for the client. Recruitment firms open the door to possibilities and opportunities that you may not have ever considered or heard of.

3) Insider knowledge about the job market and your field
As a headhunter I talk to a lot of people currently in the field. I ask questions that would normally be off limits – what their current salary is, for example – and I have a solid understanding of the industries that I work in. Headhunters are an important tool in job searching in order to understand the market, discuss what the job market is like in a certain field, and discuss what your value is in the job market.

4) They do all the leg work
Headhunters are most effective when they work with motivated and determined candidates. When you’re searching for employment, a phone call is worth a thousand emails. Candidates seldom choose a phone call over an email, but I always remember those who call because they are so few. This being said, headhunters help to relieve the pressure of job searching. They are rewarded when you find employment, so they want to present you in the best possible light. They will tweak and edit your resume and they will help promote your candidacy and resume. Headhunters liaise with clients and will sell you to their client to the best of their ability.

5) Networking
Effective job searching is about networking. Recruiters and headhunters rely on networking and their ability to form relationships with decision makers. Connecting with recruiters will help gain you access into their inner circle. Their ability to network and use existing contacts will prove invaluable in your job search or opportunity for promotion.

Remember
It’s important to remember that headhunters do not work for you – they work for their client. Though a headhunter has an investment in seeing you succeed, it is unlikely you are the only person they are talking to and submitting for an opportunity. Headhunters want to fill a job order for a client: they are not necessarily invested in making sure you get placed, but rather that the order is filled. Do not put all your eggs in one basket and rely on headhunters completely in your job search. Headhunters should be used as one of several tools when searching for employment.

Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me

Image by Kamyar Adl, Flickr

Image by Kamyar Adl, Flickr

I was awash with information during my first year of university. However, no one really sat down with me and discussed some of the smaller – yet still really useful – bits of advice. So, I’ve compiled a list of my own experiences and lessons learned:

  1. There are tons of different places to buy textbooks.

    As a first year student, I put little time or effort into scheduling my classes or being organized in general. Eventually my disorganization caught up with me, and I had to rush out at the last minute to buy several textbooks. Of course I didn’t have the luxury of shopping around: I headed straight to the school bookstore.

    Although the bookstore is almost guaranteed to have the textbook you need, you also pay a heavy premium for the convenience. Textbooks can often be found cheaper from other students, secondhand bookstores, or online. When I started my second year, I met with other students to sell my old textbooks, and bought new ones in the same way. I’ve also had a lot of success with the Toronto University Student’s Book Exchange.

  2. Organization, planning, time management and motivation are key skills to succeed in university.
     
    I was not a lazy or unmotivated first year student, but I was a disorganized one. I didn’t realize, but the Student Federation at my school hands out free student planners at the beginning of each school year. It’s vital to snag a planner early, and then find out the due dates of major assignments, projects, and exams. You can find all of this information in your course syllabus. Go through your planner and highlight any important dates. Organization is vital! If you take a few baby steps now in planning your year, it will pay off in the long run. I stuck to this method for the rest of my academic career, and realize now that there is no such thing as too much planning. There’s nothing worse than forgetting about a deadline.
  3.  

  4. In my first year of university I wanted to cycle to school. Great – off I went!
     
    I would lock my bike up outside on a bike rack. However, a few months later I finished class one day and came outside to an empty bike rack – my bike had been stolen. I was gutted, as it was a pretty new bike, and my main way to get to and from school. For the rest of the semester I was relegated to taking the bus. However, when finishing my final semester of first year, I learned that York had an underground, gated and locked, bike cage. I wish I knew about it before. Eventually I saved up enough money to buy a new bike, and by my second year I was back to cycling, and now storing my bike safely and securely.

    After a quick look, most universities offer some kind of bike cage. Although they are not normally advertised, it’s definitely worth looking into. For example, University of British Columbia, University of Calgary and York University all have bike cages.

  5. Here’s a tip I was lucky enough to hear before I started first year: if you haven’t been able to get into a course that you really want, fear not!
     
    The first week of college and university is a big game of musical chairs: students will constantly be adding and dropping courses. There’s a good possibility that if you try to enroll every day, eventually you will be able to get into the course you were after. It’s also best to attend the course, even if you are not enrolled. Explain your situation to your professor, and they can often help with your enrollment, and your previous attendance is a great example of your commitment to the class. Just be careful of class drop/enrollment deadlines, and make sure you have a backup in case you don’t end up getting into your preferred class. This tip allowed me to get into classes that were previously full. It’s frustrating when you desperately want to get into a class that is full, but it’s important to remember not to give up and move on too easily. Keep at it, and eventually your persistence will be rewarded.
  6.  

  7. Here’s something I didn’t learn until my third or fourth year: relax.
     
    Your first year of university is not necessarily about blitzing classes and getting A+’s in everything. First year is really about finding your rhythm. And you will find it! First year classes are an introduction to your academic career, and are designed to make your transition as smooth as possible. I will always remember my first year economics professor juggle three balls. He said that each ball represented a part of your life: school, work, and your personal life. You will eventually drop one of these balls – but that need not spell disaster. Know that you will struggle and fail in some areas, and that there is always support to help you succeed.
  8.  

Bicycle Commuting: How To Make Your Bike Last

Image by Bre Pettis, Flickr

Image by Bre Pettis, Flickr

You’re almost set to hit the pavement, but first, it’s important to learn some quick maintenance points. A well-maintained bicycle is the best defence against breakdowns. However, no matter how much you dote over your bike, it is inevitably going to get a flat. Keep a kit on hand:

  1. Bike pump
  2. Puncher repair kit
  3. Allen keys (varying sizes)
  4. Tire levers (used to pry off tire from wheel)
  5. Spare tube

You should also have bike lube on hand to keep your chain well-greased – a dry or dirty chain is more likely to snap. It’s also a good idea to periodically clean off dirt from your hub, cogs, brakes and frame. You should also try to get a tune up from your local bike shop every 4 months or so.

Security

A bike lock is the most important piece of equipment for keeping your bike safe. Firstly, try to lock your bike in an open and well-populated area. Make sure you lock it to something sturdy. Refrain from locking it to trees, because the lock damages the bark. Instead, look for bike racks, sturdy metal fences, and lampposts. When locking your bike, you should ideally use two locks. Always make sure one lock locks your back wheel and frame to a sturdy object. Your second lock should lock your front wheel to the frame.

Unfortunately, no bike lock in the world will keep a determined thief from pinching your bike. As a guide, you should aim to spend 10% of the cost of your bike on a bike lock. So for example, a $500 bike should have a $50 lock. The most recommended method of avoiding bike theft is to make your bike undesirable to steal.

Remember

Cycling is really fun, and the more you do it, the better you will get at it. The most important things to keep in mind when deciding to commute by bike are: do I have the right equipment? Do I know where I’m going? Am I being safe on the road? Keep these things in mind and you’ll have a fun and rewarding experience.

See you on the road!

Bicycle Commuting: Do I Really Need To Wear Those Unflattering Shorts?

Image by carljohnson, Flickr

Image by carljohnson, Flickr

So now that you’ve found the bike that’s right for you, you need to figure out what to wear. Don’t worry – you don’t have to wear those really unflattering bike shorts (although they’d certainly help). Here’s a list of some of the essentials, and tips on how to wear those cycling shorts without anyone noticing:

  1. There’s nothing more miserable than cycling when you’re cold or wet. Rain gear is essential for keeping you comfortable and giving you the motivation to continue cycling.
    • Galoshes: rubber moulds that go over regular shoes
    • Gloves: waterproof, padded and reasonably warm
    • Pants: slip-on waterproof pants that are lightweight and easily stored in a bag or pannier
    • Jacket: similar to pants, make sure it’s wind and waterproof, lightweight and covers your lower back
    • Hat: can be worn under your helmet
  2. Warmth is all about layering, which traps warm air close to your body. It’s amazing how quickly the body warms up, and if you start sweating and don’t have adequate ventilation, it will actually make you feel colder than you really are. Be aware that any exposed skin may lead to frostbite, so wrap up well.
    • Socks: cold feet are sad feet. Wrap up well with warm socks or double up on regular socks
    • Gloves: something warm that still allows you enough finger movement to work your brakes and gears
    • Base layer:
      • Cycling shorts (which are padded)
      • Long johns: don’t worry; wear them under cycling pants so no one has to see them
      • Thermal top: it’s tight and sits close to the skin to wick away sweat and trap warm air
    • Pants: something comfortable that stretches. Wind and waterproof is advisable
    • Some kind of long-sleeve cotton sweater or t-shirt to trap warm air. However, cotton should not be worn against the skin
    • Jacket should be worn over a warm base layer: look for something lined and warm, but also breathable. Cycling jackets are specifically designed with the rider in mind
    • Hat: warm toque to protect your head and ears
    • Face mask: if it’s really cold out, covering your face is a good idea to stop frostbite, especially when there’s a nasty headwind
  3. Summer is a great time to bike to school or work. The only thing you have to worry about is humidity and sweating.
    • Socks: ankle socks are best here. Something lightweight and breathable is preferred
    • Gloves: fingerless gloves are great because they allow a breeze but still deliver padding to your palms
    • Shorts: cycling shorts are great because they wick sweat away from your body and dry quickly. They also have built-in chamois (padding) in the bum area. If you’re uncomfortable wearing something that leaves little to the imagination, aim for a pair that are lightweight, quick-drying and breathable
    • Top: cycling tops are great for the same reason as shorts. They also have front zippers in case you get hot. Most cycling jerseys have pockets in the back
    • Shades: firstly, and most obviously, they keep the sun out of your eyes. Secondly, they stop dirt and debris from getting in your eyes

Remember, this is just a general guide. You’ll find from experience what works for you and what doesn’t. Dress for the conditions outside, and try not to get caught out in weather you didn’t prepare for. The Weather Network has now become your new best friend.

This is Part Three of a four-part series on Bicycle Commuting. Also check out:
Part One – Bicycle Commuting: The Benefits for Students
Part Two – Bicycle Commuting: Which Bike Is Right For Me?

How I Failed A Class

Image by Steven S., Flickr

Image by Steven S., Flickr

My first year of university was an overwhelming experience. York University’s Keele campus has over 55,000 students, and my faculty alone has 27,000 students. It’s easy to get lost, figuratively and literally, in such a place.

I learned an important lesson during first year that would help me not just in school, but in life in general. As a political science student, it was recommended that I take an introductory macroeconomics class. This class was during my second semester, and I felt like I was settling in well: I had already taken four classes and had no major problems.

However, the wheels started coming off when I started macroeconomics.

The professor had assigned 25% of our final grade to be completed online with three tests. Unfortunately, I had missed the lecture when he let us know this.

Another lesson learned for another time.

Our top two scores from the three tests would count toward our final grade. I missed the first test, and had to bank everything on the second and third. However, when the time came, I could not log into the program used to take the test. I chatted online with the website technical support staff for hours trying to solve my problem, but I never found a solution. I didn’t really pursue it anymore after that – I thought I could still pass even with the wasted 25%.

I ended up not completing any of the online tests, threw away 25% of my final grade – and failed the class.

What did I learn from this? Get help when you need it. I hadn’t experienced any problems before this class, and I was unsure about how to get help. I was intimidated to approach the professor in a class with over 200 students. I was scared, and that cost me financially (I had to repeat the class) and wasted my time.

I really do believe that if I talked to the professor about my problem, he would have worked hard to help me. Professors are there to help their students. Don’t make the same mistake I did of being intimidated by them. First year can be tough for some students, but don’t make it more difficult by putting up barriers. I also should have spoken with the department counselling service to see if there was anything they could do.

I look back on that class and think that I could have passed the first time if I had asked for help when I needed it. I learned my lesson quickly, which prevented similar problems from occurring in the future, and I was able to move on from it and eventually succeed.

I repeated the same class a year later and passed with a solid grade. Now I don’t hesitate to ask questions, seek out help and connect with professors.

Bicycle Commuting: Which Bike Is Right For Me?

Image by sekihan, Flickr

Image by sekihan, Flickr

Convinced about the benefits of cycling? Looking to make a change in your commuting habits? Great! Here’s a guide to what type of bike is right for you. There are tons of different bike styles out there, but below I’ve listed the ones most relevant to city commuting:

  1. Road Bike:

  2. Road bikes are fast, fun and light. They can weigh as little as 18 pounds and create a low centre of gravity and air resistance. Road bikes are great for commuting in warm climates, but they are not great for year-round commuters because most do not have room for fenders, panniers, or wider tires.

  3. Mountain Bike:

  4. Mountain bikes are great because they provide the rugged durability needed for all-season commuting. They have knobbly tires which can deal with the harsh realities of Canadian winters, but can also be fitted with narrower, smoother, summer tires. However, mountain bikes are much slower than road bikes because they are heavier.

  5. Hybrid:

  6. Hybrid bikes take the best aspects of road and mountain bikes to create versatile bike for commuting. Hybrid bikes are lighter and use slick tires for reduced friction. However, because hybrid bikes are a combination of road and mountain frames, it does many things well, but excels in none. Hybrid bikes are too heavy to be efficient road bikes, and too fragile to be efficient mountain bikes. However, for all-season bikes they are a worthy choice.

  7. Cruiser:

  8. Cruiser bikes are big, slow and luxurious. Big fat wheels eat up pot holes and bumps and its big cushy seat is like sitting on a cloud. If style and comfort is above speed then this is the bike for you. Just make sure you stick to the road…or the beach.

  9. Fixed Gear (fixie) and Single Speed (SS):

  10. Fixed gear means that the drivetrain is mounted to the hub with no freewheel mechanism. Basically, this means that you cannot coast: if you’re moving, then so must your pedals. Fixies, most commonly in road bike style, are even lighter than road bikes because they have fewer components. Braking on a fixie involves locking up the pedals to skid. If you’re just starting out, it’s best to also have a mechanical front break. Fixies offer the rider a fun riding experience and are easier to maintain with fewer parts that can potentially break. They are also much cheaper than other bikes.

    Single speed bikes allow coasting because the drivetrain is not welded onto the hub (the part that attaches the drivetrain to the wheel). Single speed bikes offer many of the advantages of fixies with the added bonus of coasting when you’re feeling tired or lazy, and a mechanical front and back brake.

  11. Folding bikes:

  12. Folding bikes are designed to collapse into a smaller form which allows for easier storage or transport. They’re most often used in busy downtown cores when a commuter may combine public transport and cycling. However, they are much smaller than regular bikes, heavier, have more moving parts and have very small wheels. For these reasons I would only suggest using a folding bike if you specifically intend to use it in the city centre or if you have limited storage at home.

The best way to decide what type of bike is best for you is to assess your needs. Are you a speed freak? Do you like to roll along at a slow and steady pace? Will you be cycling in the winter? Do you want to attach panniers so you can carry things? Are you going to take it off any sweet jumps?

Answering these questions will ultimately point you in the right direction. Here’s a quick cheat sheet:

Style
Pros
Cons
Road Bike Light, fast, excellent for smooth roads Little room for add-ons, can only be used on roads, expensive
Mountain Bike Rugged, all terrain bike, easily upgradable Not very fast, bulky, heavy
Hybrid Compromise, sturdy all-round commuter Only use on smooth roads, slower than a road bike
Cruiser Extremely comfortable, stylish Slow, heavy, cumbersome
Fixie/SS Light, cheap, fast, easy to maintain No gears, no coasting, no mechanical brakes (fixie), not ideal for hills
Folding Easy storage, convenient Small, heavy, small wheels, not suitable for long commutes

Bicycle fit is also really important to make sure you get the right size. A bike that is too small will make you cramp and will be uncomfortable to ride. It’s best to visit your local bike shop to get a decent fit.

Choosing the right bike for your commute is an important step in keeping you motivated and happy. Take the time to investigate the strengths and weaknesses of different bikes, and explore all of your options. Remember that your new bike is an investment that your body and bank account will thank you for!

This is Part Two of a four-part series on Bicycle Commuting. Also check out:
Part One – Bicycle Commuting: The Benefits for Students
Part Three – Bicycle Commuting: Do I Really Need To Wear Those Unflattering Shorts?

Bicycle Commuting: The Benefits for Students

Image by Tejvan Pettinger, Flickr

Image by Tejvan Pettinger, Flickr

Cycling is an excellent mode of transportation for students – just think of the money you’ll save and the calories you’ll burn! You might think that the rain accompanied by spring means it’s time to put away your bike: however, there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad equipment!

Cycling is an impactful social, financial and environmental choice that drastically reduces greenhouse gas emissions and pollution. Not only that, it has great health benefits, too.

Health Benefits

Let’s imagine that we commute by bike to school, which is a 30 km (round) trip. It will take us 90 minutes to complete this commute. For an average male, that burns over 9000 calories a month – just getting to and from school. You could give up your gym membership and bask in the glory of your new-found mode of transport! Not to mention, getting an early morning workout will keep your brain active and your body fresh; cycling is a full body workout that improves cardiovascular fitness, strengthens muscles, burns fat and improves coordination.

Financial Benefits

Keeping your bike on the road is cheap and easy: you don’t have to pay any municipal fees or taxes, and maintenance is relatively hassle-free. It also works out to be cheaper than using public transit. For example, Toronto Transit Commission monthly student passes total $1296 per year. You don’t even have to commute everyday by bike to help reduce this price. If you were to only bike during the summer (3 months) it would reduce this total by $324 – giving you significant financial savings.

If you cycled our 30 km school commute instead of driving, you would save yourself over $75 per month just on gas. You can see for yourself with this nifty Commute Impact Calculator from Metrolinx’s Smart Commute program.

Environmental Benefits

Let’s not forget about the great environmental benefits of commuting by bike. The Seeds Foundation reports that the average Canadian produces roughly 5 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year. However, if you were to leave your car in the driveway and cycle our 30km daily commute, you would save 1.6 tonnes in greenhouse emissions per year!

Stay Safe

Before we go any further, there’s one issue above all others: safety. Cycling need not be a dangerous hobby or commute.

  1. Although helmets are not required by law in Ontario, they serve as the best type of defence against head injuries. A good solid helmet should cover your forehead and fit snugly.
  2. Lights are important for improving your visibility. White lights are used at the front of your bike, and red lights at the back. Reflectors also increase your visibility. These should come with your bike.
  3. In Ontario, a bell is mandatory for any bicycle. They are a cheap and effective way of audibly alerting pedestrians to your presence.
  4. Follow all road laws in your area. Pedal power does not exclude you from the responsibility of obeying proper road safety. No running red lights or stop signs, no riding on the sidewalk, etc.

This is Part One in a four-part series on bicycle commuting. Also check out:
Part Two – Bicycle Commuting: Which Bike Is Right For Me?
Part Three – Bicycle Commuting: Do I Really Need To Wear Those Unflattering Shorts?

Summer: To Study or Not to Study?

Image by Ervins Strauhmanis, Flickr

Image by Ervins Strauhmanis, Flickr

That is the question.

Summer courses are a great way to get ahead of your classes, or play catch-up if you took a lighter course load or failed a class. Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages to studying throughout the summer.

If you decide to take summer courses: don’t panic! Summer courses are not necessarily more difficult (or any easier) than regular classes, but they do require a slightly different approach. Listed below are some things you should keep in mind when tackling summer courses:

Organization

Summer courses are condensed into three-month semesters. That means a two semester (full year) course retains all of the material but must be accomplished at twice the speed! Because of this, organization is vital to success. There is also no time for procrastination: you cannot miss classes or skip assignments. There just isn’t any room to fall behind because the workload is packed in so tightly.

Workload

The workload and expectations are on par with any other course you have taken. For this reason, it is imperative that you maintain good attendance, participate, and keep up. It is all manageable with good preparation, commitment, and organization. Remember: if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail!

Expectations

Professors mark the same, lecture the same, and expect the same output from their students during summer semesters as in any other semester. If you feel you’re unable to manage the intense course load, it is important to talk to your professor as soon as possible to discuss what you are struggling with and how to find a solution.

Now, I don’t want to scare you. We’ve covered what’s difficult about summer classes, so let’s have a look at what can be great about them:

Smaller Classes

Summer courses are great for a more personal approach to learning. Classes are often smaller and professors are often less busy. It’s important to take advantage of this situation: talk with your professors during office hours to build relationships, ask as many questions as you want during lectures, and take the opportunity to meet and learn from your peers.

Lighten Your Load: Stay Active

Taking summer courses is also a great way to ease your workload in September. Taking one less course in the winter may give you an opportunity to give more attention to other classes or activities. Also, it’s important to stay mentally stimulated over the summer – you’ll be much quicker off the blocks come September!

Balance

Image by winnifredxoxo, Flickr

Image by winnifredxoxo, Flickr

 
Remember that summer courses are an intense exercise in learning: classes are often five days a week. If you take more than one class per summer semester it’s even more important to stay organized and focused. If you do take a full course load during a summer semester, you should expect to work just as much as you would during the fall or winter.

 
 
 
One of the main disadvantages to summer courses is that it limits your opportunity to earn some money for September. If working and saving up during the summer is a priority, you should ultimately limit the number of summer courses you take.

Good luck!