Back To School: MY Experience at Douglas College

Recently I was able to be a part of a fantastic event at the Douglas College New Westminster campus. The Co-op and Student Employment Centre teams reached out to local businesses looking for industry leaders to speak to students as part of a panel, with the topic relating to navigating career paths. This was specifically for students in the LLPA (Language, Literature and Performing Arts) and HSS (Humanities, Social Sciences), who don’t necessarily have clear, “accepted” careers relating directly to their area of study. Being a Douglas Alumni, I was thrilled to participate; especially because the topic at hand is something I am very passionate about.

My educational experience and career path would never be described as a linear journey. After graduating high school I knew I wanted to attend post-secondary to continue my education, but had no career in mind. Being an athlete and huge sports fan my whole life, I decided to enroll in the Sports Science program; hoping to find some answers. I enjoyed the courses I took, but was still waiting for a moment where something would “click.” I had this moment when I took my first psychology course as an elective, and my educational path veered completely off course (in a good way!). The more I learned, the more my interest grew, and I decided to transfer over to the psychology program. As anybody who has immersed themselves in this field will tell you, it can drastically alter and shape the way you think and how you perceive the world. I definitely underwent this transformation, and gained many valuable skills because of it.

Studying psychology allowed me to gain a much better understanding of myself, while also enhancing my ability to connect with others. These developments allowed me to really improve on what I consider to be two of the most important “soft” skills, communication and empathy. Soft skills refer to skills that aren’t always measurable and don’t depend on acquired knowledge, such as the ability to inspire others or effectively problem solve. Having the ability to effectively express one’s self is an extremely beneficial skill that can directly lead to positive results. Whether it is effectively presenting an idea, demonstrating a willingness to consider other’s opinions or making a good impression in a job interview; strong communicators are very valuable.

Empathy is another soft skill that employers are looking for, and can also enrich your personal life. Being able to genuinely place yourself in someone else’s shoes and see the world through their eyes can have numerous positive effects in the workplace. Anyone in sales would love to be able to place themselves inside the mind of their potential customers. Effective marketers thrive off of being able to think from the perspective of consumers, allowing them to tailor their approach to match the consumers’ needs and interests. One can make a strong case that having empathy is crucial to success in almost any career, and is a skill that every employer is searching for. On a more personal level, being empathic allows for stronger relationships and deeper connections with those around us. As humans we are hardwired to seek out these connections, and for the most part require them to live truly meaningful lives.

Empathy and communication are just 2 of an innumerable number of skills I have been fortunate enough to gain through my post-secondary experience. Employers have shifted their focus in regards to what they are looking for in a prospective employee. Hard skills and specific, acquired knowledge are still important, especially in certain fields. However, the 21st century employer is no longer just interested in what you know, but how did you gain this knowledge? How do you think? How open are you to opportunities and personal growth? These are the questions that are coming up more and more in job interviews as the employer-employee dynamic continues to change. As companies prioritize culture; dynamic, unique, intellectually curious individuals who demonstrate a wide range of skills are in high demand.

My educational experience taught me that personal growth is of extreme importance to me. I believe that we should and can strive to become better people every day, even if it’s something miniscule. Walking into my job interview at bbd I was worried that on paper I didn’t have the credentials. I had never taken a business course in my life and didn’t really have any particularly relevant work experience. However, almost instanteously the subject of opportunity and personal growth came up and I realized that I had found a company that was looking for the sort of things I brought to the table. We are so much more than our resume, or what is listed on a piece of paper. Everyone has unique skills and gifts that would make them an asset to any company. Coming to this realization is extremely empowering and allows us to gain confidence and accomplish things we never thought were possible. This is why I feel events like these are so critical to students who are trying to make sense of their current place in the job market and life in general.

I would like to thank Benefits by Design and Douglas College for allowing me the opportunity to participate in such a great event. I hope that my experiences can help people who are in similar situations, and am thankful that I was able to grow from this experience.

P.S. To anyone who finds this article interesting, I recommend reading anything by Daniel H. Pink; particularly “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates us” and “ To Sell is Human.”

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