by Vimbai Chikoore, Graduating Professional Communications student, FCAD, Ryerson University
The first two years of my undergraduate journey I felt lost and overwhelmed. I deeply questioned the effectiveness and relevance of my program, which ultimately made me insecure about my ability to transition into the workplace. During those two years, I tried to improve my professional experience by taking on internships and volunteer positions. I even taught myself to code. All in the effort to feel more secure about my career path and myself. It was an emotionally exhaustive period; I was continuously distressed about my future as a communications professional. Most of all, like many undergraduate students, I felt alone in navigating the confusing and complex career space.
Looking back, I realize that I undervalued myself and my abilities due to career insecurity and lack of knowledge. Back then, I had barely developed and was not aware of the important career competencies and skills essential for an undergraduate’s career development. And thus far, my experience with the university’s career centre had been unhelpful. I had attended a resume advising session, where a student advisor had recited a, “here’s how to improve your resume” script, after barely skimming my resume. I found the session to be generally unpleasant and felt that I had reached out for help and guidance only to be met with apathy. It reinforced the idea that I had to navigate the career landscape on my own, so alone I continued on.
Fast forward two years, and I now have confidence in myself and a clear understanding of my value. Most importantly, I have the knowledge and support to navigate the career landscape. This self-development, in-part, came from my time as a student staff at the Ryerson Career and Co-op Centre (RCCC), where I worked as a Campus Engagement Ambassador and Curriculum Assistant. My positions there over the past two years have allowed me to connect with so many student affairs professionals who, through their actions, have supported, guided and mentored me.
My first supervisor taught me a lesson in how to treat people and support them. Her kindness and generosity has allowed me to feel comfortable transitioning into any working environment and gain confidence in my work, as well as develop as a communications professional. For instance, I would not have had the opportunity to write an article like this without her. The same goes for the subsequent teams and individuals I have worked with since. My current team has been wonderfully supportive in my professional development. They support me, they challenge me to be better and most importantly, they take the time to listen to me speak at length about Dungeons and Dragons. I am very grateful for Emily Jones, Camara Chambers and Adrian Layne, for their kindness and support. They have become paradigms of excellence, as professionals.
My second supervisor’s trust in my abilities, allowed me to thrive as a Curriculum Assistant. Despite various challenges, her unwavering belief and confidence in my abilities allowed me to recognize that I was being too hard on myself. And, despite having an understanding of my value, I still felt insecure in my abilities. Most importantly, she taught me an important lesson in forgiving myself for making mistakes. Before then, I took every mistake I made in the workplace as a Defcon threat level 1 to my career. She allowed me to realize that mistakes are an opportunity to grow. As a mentor and a friend, I am truly grateful for Fenella Amarasinghe’s wisdom, support and advice.
Lastly, my career mentor has been a driving force in my career development. She forced me out of my shell and on numerous occasions helped me navigate the career space in various industries. She taught me that it is perfectly okay to ask for help. Through her example, I have learned what it takes to thrive and find success as a career professional. She saw value in my skills and experience, especially when I had trouble seeing it in myself. She championed me, pushed me to take on new challenging opportunities and acted as the voice of reason during times when my judgement was clouded by fear and insecurity. Before her, I did not fully understand the impact a student affairs professional had on students. Since then I have witnessed how hard she works to not only support me, but many other students. I am truly thankful for have met Nikki Waheed.
Throughout my undergraduate journey, I have witnessed and known many students who actively struggle in their career development, due to lack of knowledge and/or support. This can cause distress but most of all deterioration of self-confidence and self-worth. This was my reality before joining the RCCC. Since joining, I have grown and gained the confidence to carry myself as a digital communications professional.
Throughout my two years at the RCCC, I have been lucky to work alongside some amazing student affairs professionals who have coached, championed, supported and mentored me in various ways. Their presence in my life has been a has been a positive influence for my career development and in my life. Thank you to Maurice Fernandes, Ken Lee, Dan Traynor, Herleen Arora, Jean-Pierre Fernandes and all the SA professionals that have supported me.