Simon Lam joined Vic as a career advisor and educator in August. He holds a B.A. in sociology and criminology from Simon Fraser University and a Master of Social Work from U of T in the human services management and leadership stream. Lam’s previous experience includes working in student services at OISE and UBC as well as volunteering at Vancouver’s Crisis Intervention & Suicide Prevention Centre and employment at Toronto’s Bridgepoint Active Healthcare. Lam recently spoke with Victoria University’s communications team about his newest role.
VU: What is the primary function of a career advisor and educator?
SL: As a career advisor, students can make one-on-one appointments with me and we can work on specifics such as CVs, LinkedIn profiles, job searches and how to connect extracurricular experiences to the work world. I really try to help people shape their journey and get them on the right path. Some students know exactly what they want to do while others don’t—and that’s just fine. The educator component of my job entails delivering workshops and sessions on a broader scale. I work with the Office of Alumni Affairs & Advancement, for instance, to bring in alumni to speak to particular topics. We cover anything from trends in AI to networking during a pandemic. One of the things I try to emphasize is that a student’s personal interests could play a part in their career.
VU: How did your Master of Social Work prepare you for your current position?
SL: My current position is a great way to merge my past experience working in higher education with my degree in social work. Social work is a kind of mindset that offers a particular perspective—it is more than a profession. It is a way of seeing things broadly like how a student’s family, age, sex, race or history of marginalization might influence how they feel about the world and their future place in it. I help students identify their strengths and coach them to be able to share these attributes with employers in a confident manner.
VU: How have things changed for a position such as yours during COVID-19?
SL: The COVID-19 pandemic has had its share of pros and cons. The real con is not seeing colleagues and losing out on informal connections at work. Like so many people, I am glued to my computer for eight hours a day. On a positive note, everything becoming virtual has made access easier for students. For instance, just the other day I spoke to a student from their house in Dubai. I’m also able to observe students’ surroundings and ask them about their life outside of school based on things like posters in their room. Ease of access also results in some students being more engaged in workshops we host, for instance. Students are so used to Zoom and Teams now that they don’t hesitate to jump on a call with a speaker who is delivering a workshop. Speakers from around the world are now available to us since everything must be done virtually. We are no longer constrained by geography.
VU: What do you like most about this job?
SL: Engaging with the students is so satisfying. I love to help them see where they can go. I try to emphasize the big picture and encourage them to see the impact they can have on the world 40 years down the road. Vic’s students are eager and highly interested in what is possible. I wish I had been like that in undergrad!