We were finishing the camera set-up when Kate arrived for her Discover Yearstudent interview. It was the night of our inaugural Kick-off party, where we welcomed our first cohort of students and introduced them to some of our wonderful committee members, mentors and educators.
Before the party got started, however, we wanted to capture some of the thoughts and feelings of this young group of student innovators - the very first to enter our unconventional post-secondary transition program – so that we could help other young people understand the benefits of a purposeful year “off.”
It took only a matter of seconds to see that Kate had joined the program for the right reasons.
“Thanks for doing this interview, Kate – I know you’re pretty shy, so I really appreciate you doing this” I said.
“Well, I joined the program to step outside of my comfort zone, so what better way to start than doing this terrifying interview!” she replied.
One of the most important lessons for me during our first year was that I underestimated how much courage was required for students and their parents to embrace this bold new educational option. It’s one thing to say “wow – great idea!” and entirely another to say “yes – I am committing to this new paradigm for one year.” Those who completed the program demonstrated significant courage, and Kate was at the front of the line.
That first on-camera interview was a big deal for Kate, who is exceptionally well-organized, thoughtful and generally stays away from the spotlight. Her #1 goal for the year was to build a stronger sense of self-confidence.
After that first interview, she consistently found important opportunities to challenge herself and to grow over the course of her Discover Year. She applied for jobs she had never thought of before. She had difficult conversations at work when she felt that she wasn’t being treated fairly. She trained younger employees in the office. She traveled on her own for the very first time… and had dinner with a stranger, to boot. She identified the things that scared her, and she took steps – both small and large – to overcome those fears. She learned a lot about herself in the process.
Towards the end of the year, she saw a job-posting for a position at an intellectual property firm on Facebook, and she threw her name in the hat. As a social sciences graduate, she knew next to nothing about intellectual property. But over the course of the year, she had identified the personal qualities that made her unique and she learned how to better articulate those qualities to others.
She landed the job and has been there for the past six months as Executive Assistant and Media Relations Coordinator. She has learned a lot about intellectual property – an area she never considered when she left university with a degree in social sciences.
Kate is an excellent example of why young Canadians should avert their fixation on “working in the field of my degree.” The majority of students leaving post-secondary institutions are aware of only a fraction of the job-types and industries available to them. Why are we not doing more to help them explore?
Speaking of exploring, Kate continues to push herself outside of her comfort zone, and her steps are getting bigger, her confidence growing with each new experience. As of this writing, she is planning a six-month adventure to Ireland, where she plans on working, meeting new people and learning about her family’s culture and traditions. It is a trip that, as she would tell you herself, would not have been conceivable prior to her purposeful gap year.
She was inspired by the amazing people who generously gave their time over the course of the Discover Year to share their travel, work and life experiences. They enabled her to truly understand what is possible when you make an intentional decision to constantly seek opportunities that lie outside of your comfort zone. Now, as she continues her journey to Significance, she is heading down the road to inspiring others.
You can count me as one of those inspired by her bravery and perseverance in meeting her goals.