Life After Mac: Real Stories of Alumni Finding Their Way — Connor
In September of 2017 I joined the working world at my first “real” job. Having gained a year’s worth of experience and growth I thought I’d share some lessons learned.
One of the largest challenges has been taking my skills developed in university and transitioning them to a results-focused mindset for a company looking to grow on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual basis.
For context, let me tell you what I do: I work as the Customer Operations Lead at a Toronto-based human resources software company. Basically, I work as the bridge that connects our corporate clients, product users, and sales prospects to our development team.
Success in my role can be broken down into answering three questions:
1) Are our corporate clients happy?
2) Are our users happy?
3) How can we get new customers?
Being able to answer these questions introduces the main lesson I’ve learned in my first year working: all action should be pursued with a desired outcome in mind.
A results focused mindset makes all the difference when it comes to getting things done. It is much easier to be disciplined about completing a task (no matter how challenging or monotonous) when you’ve already established the value in having it finished.
How is this applied? While you are performing any task start by working backwards from the end goal. For example, I’ve established that one of my criteria for success is positive user feedback. From this starting point I can begin identifying proactive and reactive actions which promote reaching this goal. Improving this metric could include tasks like faster response times to support tickets, creating user guides to help less tech-savvy folks navigate the platform, and prioritizing resolution of common user problems with the development team.
I love my job, but if I am being honest, I do not love all the tasks that I perfrom on a daily basis. However, by focusing on the impact of my actions I, and everyone at our company, power through tasks integral to our success. For me, this was the largest shift in applying lessons from post-secondary education to running operations at a quickly growing software company. And it is a theme that often comes up when I discuss career opportunities with recent grads.
Often career growth is presented with vague, non-actionable, inspirational mantras like follow your passion or, even worse, the following quote — Choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. Thinking about your role in this way — what do I like to do, what do I love doing every day — will do you a great disservice as you start your career.
Am I passionate about my work? Absolutely. But beginning a career in human resources software did not feel like a life-defining, professional awakening right away. I am very lucky to say I love what I do and look forward to going in to the office everyday, but that’s because the results I generate make a difference to our users, our clients, and our company trajectory. Making an impact is rewarding, and pursuing that sense of reward fuels passion.
The distinction here is that passions are not intrinsic, fully formed desires waiting to be found. Instead, they are fostered through consistent focus towards solving problems or improving an outcome. Passion also doesn’t make tedious work any less boring, but pursuing results makes the value in completing it easy to see.
Connor McGee, BA Communications ‘16
The McMaster Alumni Association, over the course of the next year, will be featuring one grad’s career story each week. If you graduated in the last 10 years and are interested in sharing yours, please email Scott at email@example.com.
If you are looking to get started on your own journey check out resourcesavailable to recent graduates through the Student Success Centre.