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How to make your own job July 11, 2011

Posted by Chris Garbutt in Student Life.
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Despite the sunshine and warm air, summer can be as stressful as the school year. Every April, the city is swarmed with eager job applicants. Many will find that, despite their qualifications, enthusiasm or high marks in last year’s incredibly difficult 18th Century Romantic literature class, even snagging a job at the local coffee shop can be a challenge.

It’s easy to be discouraged after handing out what seemed to be a mountain of resumes and receiving only a metaphorical molehill of responses. But some students have taken this as an opportunity to extend their creativity and academic studies to a practical level.

Many students use simple home-business solutions to make extra cash in the summers. From tutoring to note-taking to even food delivery, there are a number of creative ways you can make money on the off season.

What’s more, the best ideas are the ones that come when you’re just having fun! Vincent Cheung is a PhD student at UofT who turned “just something fun” into a successful business.

A student of computer engineering and special machine learning, Vincent spent his 2007 summer at an internship in California. He returned with hundreds of pictures that he wanted to share with his fellow interns in a fun, creative way. After spending hours rearranging his photos on his computer, he decided that there had to be an easier way to arrange them creatively.

He designed a computer program that would place pictures into a fun design template chosen by the user. He posted it on his personal blog in 2009 and, at the request of interested friends, he began to promote his program, called Shapecollage, to the top 100 blogs in the world, starting from the bottom. Today, Shapecollage software has had 4 million downloads and has recently been released as an iPhone app.

Vincent advises that when you’re starting your own business, it’s best to start small. Begin by creating a product or service that you can use and appreciate; if you like something, it’ll be easier to convince others to like it too. “Take bite-sized pieces rather than jumping from zero to a million,” Vincent says.

U of T has many resources for the up-and-coming entrepreneur. Take advantage of clubs like the Entrepreneurial Society for help making a business plan or choosing your next steps. Use the bulletin boards around campus to advertise to your peers or even get in contact with one of the many U of T newspapers about their classified listings. Like Vincent, who’s used skills from as far back as grade six, apply your schoolwork to a venture that you can enjoy and profit from.

The Government of Ontario offers grants of up to $10,000 to new businesses. They are always looking for new, innovative ideas to invest in. Their funding programs are listed on their website by industry; they even offer online workshops to help beginners develop business strategies.

There are also awards out there for young entrepreneurs; Vincent won the Global Student Entrepreneurship Award for students taking a full-course load while also operating a profitable business. Awards look great on grad-school applications and real-life experience will put you ahead of the rest in the post-grad work force.

You can be your own boss! Can’t find a job? Make your own and keep your mind sharp and your resume fresh in the process.

-Bethany McKoy, Communications Assistant and Writer, Office of Student Life



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