I recently attended one of the Faculty of Arts & Science’s Backpack to Briefcase events, Humanities/Languages Speed Networking. University of Toronto alumni were invited to talk to students about their career pathways, and how they managed to navigate the workplace after graduation. The first half of the event consisted of discussions with a pair of alumni in small groups, and the other half involved an informal mingling period with peers and alumni. We got to ask alumni about their experiences and main takeaways from their time at U of T, their career pathways, and what relevant skills and experiences they needed to get their jobs. From listening to the various stories and opinions of the alumni, I managed to pick up these four lessons about career exploration.
When I signed up for Navigating the Workplace, a workshop offered by the Career Centre, I didn’t know what to expect. This was the first Career Centre event I had ever attended, and the event description only vaguely spoke about building goals, understanding workplace expectations, and learning effective communication skills. However, at the end of the event, I gained insight into how to effectively communicate my qualities, and about the different ways to approach career exploration.
When I was legally allowed to work and ready to become a contributing member of society, I applied to be camp counselor for a kids’ summer camp. Although I was practically a child myself and the only knowledge I had of summer camps came from an old Scooby Doo episode about a haunted campsite, I was offered an interview.
When I stepped into the interviewer’s office, he jumped up from his chair and pointed at me. “Is it really you?” he asked, in awe. “Are you the genius who put down Microsoft Word as her special skill? I’ve never met anyone so qualified and so accomplished. You are now the CEO of the summer camp. Wait, scratch that. I now dub you CEO of summer itself.”
Needless to say, my first interview for that summer camp job did not go quite as smoothly as this scenario (I never heard back from the interviewer), but it did teach me a few lessons about myself and my career aspirations, as well as the surprising benefits of failure. Of course, my experience also taught me about the dos and don’ts of interviewing (come prepared, know about the company, rehearse questions beforehand, etcetera—you’ve heard these all before), but the most valuable lessons I took away from the experience were about myself and my career explorations.
It was my first day of classes at the University of Toronto, and I stepped onto the trampled turf of front campus with a pair of juvenile—and, admittedly, cliché—Converse and a backpack-sized collection of goals for the incoming year. I was brimming with a plethora of productive emotions, such as anxiousness, homesickness, and—probably the most helpful one—fear.
Luckily, I made it out first year alive, and with zero regrets. Zero regrets, that is, except for one.