The many resources available at the University of Toronto (UofT) ignited this spirit in me to explore beyond the classroom walls. As a senior at the University of Toronto, I worked, taught, and lead the Indonesian Student’s Community at UofT. My recent interest in the financial field has led me to accept an analyst position at a hedge fund; where I would come in 2-3 days a week for a full day of work. I’ve always enjoyed teaching and thus decided to accept a teaching position at school; where I would teach a finance class once a week. And throughout the past 3 years, I have been actively involved in the Indonesian Student’s Community at UofT and was encouraged by the seniors to take on a leading position. On top of all that, I was enrolled in a full course load.
Only by combining technical knowledge from academics, with experience outside the classroom was I able to have a richer learning experience. Working in teams, performing in high-pressure environments, as well as dealing with difficult clients are only a small part of what I learned outside the classroom. However, the fact that I was getting paid meant that so much was expected of me as opposed to the academic setting; where I paid to learn, here I was paid to learn.
Having said this, continuous class participation, networking attendance, and involvement in clubs, societies, and competitions have led to the job offers. Mind you that I’m not here to dismiss the importance of school. In fact I would not have received these offers without it. For those of you without any work experience or leadership roles, remember that it’s never too late to start. There are plenty of opportunities as long as you’re willing to dedicate yourself to a cause. And for those intending to take on the same challenge, I would like to leave you with three important tips I have found very helpful.
1. Understand your end goal, but be open to new ideas.
This will help you build a framework for decision making and keep you focused on your goal amid trend waves. This is not to say that you shouldn’t be open to new ideas. But it’s really your judgement call combined with experience. Aside from the responsibilities I chose to bear, I was asked lead as the finance director of the undergraduate commerce society. I was also invited to represent the school in numerous global competitions such as the CFA Research Challenge and the Rotman International Trading Competition. These offers may lead to interesting opportunities I must say, but knowing my limits, I kindly declined. I was lucky enough to be able to seek counsel from those that went beyond me. But most importantly, having clearly defined goals helped me narrow down my options.
Remember also that you have limited time. It is therefore important to prioritize. This can be done easily when you understand your goals. When I agreed to take on the load, I was ready to say goodbye to much of my social life. For me, it was a sacrifice worth making because I understood that I needed to develop certain skills to reach that goal. It’s important to note that people’s goals vary and something I value highly may be worthless for others. So be careful to whom you seek counsel to.
2. Know your limits, both physically and mentally
Many were the days when I felt so sleep-deprived that I forgot how it feels to have enough sleep. When that time comes, I suggest that you take the much needed break. Recharge by doing something you love with somebody you love. As for me, I enjoy spending time in the squash court, running, biking and a lot of other outdoor nature related activities (when the weather permits, which doesn’t happen quiet often in Toronto). I also go out on a food binge with my close circle. In addition, there’s always something happening in Toronto. Even when you’re not in the city, there are plenty of campus events and facilities you can make use of. Go out and explore.
Even machines need their maintenance. But make sure you don’t get carried away by your down time. Be aware of your responsibilities and reschedule your tasks to ensure timely completion.
3. Don’t be thoughtless
Sometimes you get so caught up with trying to get the work done. You lose so much of your focus when sleep deprived and this leads to careless errors or what I call thoughtless mistakes. These mistakes come in many forms. In my case as an analyst, I was able to identify data that were outliers and this led me to conclude that my team was not using the right data for our analysis. I escalated this problem to my manager and we steered our analysis in a different way.
Or let’s say you have a retail job and your manager asked you to do a stock take on an item. Let’s say your stock take this year totaled to 100 products when the previous year’s stock take recorded 500. This should prompt you to question the difference. Why the drastic change? Was it because we sold more? Or did we trim down our inventory this year due to changes in policy?
Here are some tips on how you could avoid these thoughtless mistakes:
Clarify your task or work objectives with your senior. Make sure you know what sort of output they expect and always perform a sanity check.
Questions to ask when performing sanity checks:
- Do the numbers make sense?
- In what way will my output be utilized by others? How will my output be somebody else’s input?
This is important primarily because:
- You don’t want to make a fool of yourself in front of your seniors because people’s perception of you is skewed towards your last performance.
- You get brownie points from those around you for spotting these errors. In my case, it was noticing that we had used the wrong data for our analysis.
This rule is applicable again to all aspects of life. Don’t’ be thoughtless in your relationship with your colleagues, friends and family. This attentive attitude made a positive difference in how I respond to situations thrown at me and people around me.
Regardless of the challenges you decide to take on, put 110% into everything. Discipline goes a long way and don’t forget to be daring while you can.
Photo credit pinterest.com, Dailymail.co.uk, blogut.ca, personal collection.