By: Maeghan Smulders
I am commonly asked to talk about the problem with Gen Y and how they have no work ethic in comparison to previous generations, but aside from this being an irrelevant subject, I refuse to believe that we can paint an entire generation of people with just one brush. Gen Y may be deemed as lazy, however, I see myself as no better or no worse than anyone else in the generation that I belong to.
My story is of a homeschooled girl growing up in Calgary, Alberta. My parents taught my older brother, two younger sisters and I ever since elementary school because they strongly believed in experiential learning and wanted to provide a hands-on environment for us to grow up in. What made my education unique was the opportunity to pursue my interests, explore the world through travel, being given permission to openly make mistakes and to learn from them.
After graduating from highschool, I pursued a university degree. Walking across the stage to my first ever graduation last June, all of a sudden it hit me… I was directionless when it came to pursuing a career. I had no idea what I wanted to do and assumed the right job would just find me.
School didn’t give me the same education I had growing up; I passed my classes, got good grades, but didn’t have the same “hand on approach” to finding what I was interested in. After two months of my parents, family and friends asking me “what are you doing to do after you graduate…?” I decided to create my own experience: ProjectONE12.
It was an initiative where I interned at 10 different companies, in 112 days, across North America to find my dream job. The journey inspired growth and learning opportunities from companies like: BBDO, Fotolia, Adobe, Facebook, Goolge and finally landed me my “dream job” with North America’s fastest growing e-commerce business, Beyond The Rack!
It took eight months of speed-interning for me to figure out the direction I wanted to go with my career. I now realize that, like many students, I undervalued the benefits of experience during my time at school. North America has an over-emphasis and unrealistic expectation on what an education can bring us in our careers. Too often we assume that the more designations we have behind our name, the more likely we are to be given a job… but that is never the case. We are off-balance with the ratio of learning vs. doing… and it is something we need to address.
Students, use your time at school as an opportunity to play in the sandbox of work. Get your hands messy and try random things – there are co-op programs, internships, opportunities to study abroad or to volunteer… and they are all so valuable. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and meet random people. An education is just an education unless you know how to use it. I encourage you to make mistakes, try new things and be adventurous. You’ll be surprised at how quick opportunity, confidence and good fortune find you when you are challenging yourself and following what you’re interested in.
Maeghan Smulders is an all-Calgarian, homeschooled, well-traveled, oddly strange, but randomly talented girl that redefined the post-graduation process of looking for a job through her self-created initiative ProjectONE12: working 10 jobs, in 6 cities, in 112+ days across North America .
She has been recognized as Canada’s 2011 HSBC Top Women Leader of Tomorrow, was the youngest academic presenter at a PhD’s conference in Stockholm, Sweden for research in Entrepreneurship and has created award winning programs to inspire and support entrepreneurship/women leadership.