Philosophy means the love of wisdom, and I think that is a fundamental part of who I am - Michelle Allenberg
Four years ago I would not have thought I would be an editor at a newspaper.
In high school I had my mind set on being a lawyer and I excelled in law class. I went to university and studied philosophy hoping this degree would fine tune my argumentative skills and give me the right groundwork to build my career.
A Love of Studying Philosophy
Once I started studying the great philosophers, from Socrates to Camus, I fell in love and was sure I had finally found something to be really passionate about. I enjoyed all of my classes and really dreamed about being a philosopher. I never saw myself being a teacher or professor, so that was never an option for me, but at the time I couldn’t see myself doing anything other than philosophy. However, I found it very limiting in what I could do for a career if I wanted to stay in this field.
I completed my honours degree in 2010 and didn’t know what step to take next and so I applied to do my masters in philosophy. Maybe I was lucky I wasn’t accepted to the two programs to which I applied. I had to really rethink what I was going to do as a career.
From Philosophy to Self-Exploration
For two years after graduation I worked in customer service. I even worked at a law firm as a law clerk and hated every moment of it. I thank the stars I didn’t go to law school and waste valuable time and money on something I now know I would have hated. I was told by friends and family to work at factories or as an administrative assistant, but nothing appealed to me. I was beginning to feel hopeless and anxious about my future and I began to think about going back to school. I knew I loved philosophy, and I still do, but I was coming to terms with the idea that the only option for me was to be a professor if I wanted to eat and breathe it.
I spent a few months talking to close friends and family and really reflecting on life and what was important to me. I had always been creative, whether it was painting, writing, or drawing. I started writing poetry when I was in high school and never really thought much about it. I thought about all the different jobs I dreamed of doing when I was a child, from actor to combat journalist, and that’s when things started to make sense to me.
I was always artistic and felt the most at ease doing something creative. I also had an intense passion for the world and for knowing what was happening in the world. Even at about eight or nine I had admired and wondered what it would be like to be a combat journalist. I think that appealed to me because I grew up in South Africa during a tumultuous time when civil war was rampant throughout the country. I had watched apartheid end in South Africa and even as a child I wanted to know what was happening and what it all meant.
Discovering my Passion for Journalism
With my thirst for knowledge and my creative side it started to make sense that I go back to school for journalism. In 2012 I was accepted to the Journalism program at Niagara College in Ontario and was excited to learn more about this new career path.
I loved journalism, every aspect, from writing to taking photographs. I finally found a career that I was interested in. I began an internship at the end of the 2014 semester. The internship was part of the journalism program that we had to complete before we could graduate. During my second week at Magpie Media, where I was completing my internship, I was offered a job at a newspaper. I had applied for a position as a politics and oil sands reporter, but was told the job was no longer available. However, I was then asked to interview for a news editor position. I was not expecting that and was nervous. I had two days to prepare for a completely different interview, but I was excited. I
would be able to do design and layout which I had really enjoyed in school. I was so excited to start a whole new chapter in my life.
I have been at the newspaper for almost eight months now and I love it. I never thought I would be an editor, but I enjoy the different aspects of journalism I get to experience on a day to day basis. On a daily basis I get to do design, layout, copy editing and photo editing. I also have the freedom to take photos and write editorials for the newspaper. I think my career is still evolving and I still hope to be the war journalist I once dreamed of being, but I’m enjoying the journey.
I don’t think I would be where I am today if I had not taken philosophy. Philosophy means the love of wisdom, and I think that is a fundamental part of who I am. If I didn’t have a love of wisdom I would not be a journalist. I have always wanted to learn more and know the truth, so I know that philosophy lead me to my career now. It has helped shape me and prepare me for anything life throws my way.
Michelle Allenberg is a news editor at Fort McMurray Today. Allenberg previously worked for Niagara News and Magpie Media in Ontario. For more information visit her website http://www.michelleallenberg.com/ (click link here).
Your mission is how you will make the world a better place - Sergio Bendana
“What do I want to do when I grow up?” was a question I became all too familiar with throughout late high school. It seemed like at least most of my friends knew more or less what they wanted to do, while I had no clue. I would sit and just think, for…hours, about how my life would turn out if I decided to take a certain career path. Perhaps a mechanical engineer, or maybe an astronomer, or how about even a lawyer. I would think about what my day would be like in these different jobs, and none really felt right. I was lost and had no one to turn to, to really help me get clear.
I was then given a great piece of advice I’m sure you’ve all heard before, but sometimes it only has profound implications later on. “Study something you love” where the words of my high school guidance counsellor.
I decided I would study the law since it is something I have always been passionate about. I have always been into trying new things, so I decided I would study at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) which was a fairly new University at the time. I enrolled in the Criminology, Justice & Policy Studies program and studied there for four years, fairly certain I would then go to law school and become a lawyer.
Two years in, I was not in a great place. Our rez frosh week became a frosh month. We drank like it was nobody’s business, having beer pong and flip cup tournaments regularly, and even did a century club or two. I was having fun and by most people’s standards was living the life. Besides drinking probably way too much, I had spent pretty much all my money on booze, running through 1 or 2 26s a week, and so was pretty much negative in my bank account. I knew deep down there was more to life than this, and so I decided to do something about it. I attended a Tony Robbins event called Unleash the Power Within (UPW) and it massively altered the direction of my life for the better. I went from being broke due to spending money on partying, to eventually buying my first car, a Honda, then a motorcycle, and then a Mercedes.
I made several changes in my life. One of the biggest was annihilating a limiting belief I was allowing to control myself. This began with the notion that there are only two reasons we act; for the desire to gain pleasure and the need to avoid pain. Throughout our lives we link pleasure and pain to different things, based on our experiences. I had somehow in my mind linked working hard to the feeling of pain, which some of you may be able to relate to. At Unleash the Power Within, I become conscious of this limiting belief, and began to associate the opposite, pleasure, to accomplishing hard work. That small change made all the difference. I went from failing my first class ever to straight A’s across the board. I was already half way through my degree, and so I decided I would complete it, because I finish what I start. Yet I knew that my career choice would again need to change as I no longer wanted to attend law school. It wasn’t until a year after I graduated that I had an experience that would guide me to choose my new career path.
I had the unique honor and privilege of being invited to be a coach at the Global Youth leadership Summit (GYLS) thanks to my new connections from Unleash the Power Within, where I volunteered as a crewmember. It was an incredibly rewarding experience to contribute to the bettering of thousands of lives! I met someone in the Anthony Robbins Foundation and she invited me to come be a coach at GYLS! As you can imagine by the title, it is an absolutely amazing life changing event for teens from all over the world. It wasn’t until completing my second year as a coach, on the flight home, that it finally hit me. I asked myself a powerful question: “Wow, this week was the most rewarding and fulfilling week of my life, why does it have to end?” And then I asked an even better question. “How can I make what I did this week, my career?” And right there, Run Your Mission Inc. was born!
I decided I wanted to help people live an empowered life by becoming a professional speaker and coach. I took my guidance counsellor’s advice and began to immerse myself in studying something I really loved and was truly passionate about: personal development. There are many different speakers in all different areas ranging from health, finances, and relationships. I knew instantly what I wanted to do. I wanted to help people find their career. It was something I struggled with for a long time, and so I knew I needed to help people make this decision more easily. I also knew I didn’t just want to help people pick a job, or choose a career. I needed to inspire them to find their mission in life and then empower them to make it their career.
If you have gotten to this point, I know something about you. You are not willing to settle for a life less than the one you are capable of living. You may be unsure as to what job or career to choose. I offer you this: don’t choose a job or a career; define what the purpose of your life is. Choose your mission and then find a career that is aligned with it. By analyzing what you value most, and what you are most passionate about, you can gain direction in choosing your mission. Think about what you would do for the rest of your life for free. Think about what you will do after you retire to keep busy. You need to create a vision for your life, and for the legacy you will leave on this earth. “Your mission is how you will make the world a better place.”
I honor you for reading this, and it is my deepest wish it has inspired you to not just settle for a job or a career, but to find a mission that lights you up, excites you, and fulfills you at the deepest level. Once you have found your mission, it will wake you up early and keep you up late. You will live with a level of joy and happiness you did not think was possible. Commit to making your life a masterpiece, and go out there and run your mission.
Sergio Bendana is the founder of Run Your Mission Inc. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree (Honours) in Criminology from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, with a specialization in youth restorative justice. For more information visit www.runyourmission.com.S
It took me my twenties to realize the only thing that was stopping me was belief in myself - Ayako Turnbull
I never knew my calling was a Jamaican inner-city by a garbage dump, until fourteen years later.
I am just beginning to embark on an exciting new endeavor in the non-profit world. Yet, my heart knew this was my true path fourteen years ago. I was sixteen years old, it was summer break and I was volunteering in Jamaica’s capital city, Kingston. I spent that summer in an inner-city community called Riverton. Riverton is one of Jamaica’s most impoverished communities; built up along the edges of the Kingston landfill. I saw children, just younger than me, not having the opportunities that I took for grated. And it greatly impacted me. I traveled down to Jamaica two more times and raised around $10,000 in my youth.
I raised the funds through trial and error - hosting pub nights, asking friends and family and then linking up with Langara College’s Student Union group, the International Development Committee. This Vancouver college, and I’m sure many others around Canada, have a development committee that collects funds as part of the student fees. I was able to secure some of the funds to be donated to Riverton and from then on, they’ve been a fantastic long-term supporter of the Riverton School. Also, my experience fundraising for Students for a Free Tibet Canada, gave me the confidence to ask without guilt. Through this commitment to Jamaica, I was fortunate enough to remain close with the principal of the school and be one of the first and only foreigners to homestay within this community.
But soon the “real world” of going to post secondary, getting engaged and Vancouver life took hold. I thought the only way to help was by getting a degree. Though I did enjoy studying Political Science, Sociology and International Development courses at Langara and eventually, UBC, I knew it wasn’t for me. I always yearned to be out in the world interacting with those I read so much about. So, with a failed engagement in 2008 and a feeling of lost direction, I dropped out.
Between 2008-2013 I had to learn some life lessons the hard way, which made me lose touch with Jamaica. I let my own personal issue of lacking self-confidence lead to substance abuse, and it began to take precedent over helping others. I partied much too hard and I recklessly bumbled my way through Latin America for almost a year. Looking back on it now,
I don’t regret anything, for it is said, “I may not have gone where
I intended to go. But I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”
I have emerged out of my darkest years, full of light. I am stronger and more focused than ever before.
As if to test this strength, my new job as a travel agent saw me flying down to Jamaica for a conference. It was as though the Universe was waving its hands in front of me, saying, ‘Hey! You’re ready for this. Now, get back on track and help these guys!’ In just a few weeks I raised almost $8000 to take down with me to donate. I didn’t just want to ask for a hand out in donations from friends, so I created a fun event: “The Ja’mazin Race”, which was a bar-hopping scavenger hunt around Vancouver with a silent auction that raised almost $3000. I was then able to get Langara College’s Student Union to donate another $5000. I visited Riverton again, staying with a local family, and distribute the funds.
After that trip, the hamster in my head really started moving. I realized that I could utilize the compassionate social network I had developed to increase these efforts. Within a few months I incorporated a non-profit called Fundamentals for Change Society. As the President and Founder, my organization’s goal is to promote development in impoverished Jamaican communities, through fun and innovative programs with the use of play, education and community empowerment. In just six months we’ve raised almost $10,000 and have begun building a playground for a school.
I also want to give people from the West an opportunity to experience what first lit my fire at the age of sixteen; volunteering abroad. I am in the process of creating a volunteer vacation tour company to enable opportunities for others to give their holidays purpose. I believe giving the gift of bridging cultures and seeing the potential brimming in all children allows others to see the potential that is brimming within themselves.
And maybe, just maybe, it might save you fourteen years.
Ayako Turnbull is the President and Founder of Fundamentals for Change Society. She has studied the social sciences at UBC, sat on the Board of Directors for Students for a Free Tibet Canada and volunteered as a mentor to native youth in government care, through the Urban Native Youth Associations Kinnections Mentorship Program. Ayako has recently quit her job at Flight Centre to pursue FFC's goals on a more full-time basis. For more information about her organization and ways to contribute, visit www.fundamentalsforchange.org // @ffcjamaica .
Most people know what they want to do in life, they just haven't allowed themselves to do it yet. - Brian Kates
Losing Sight Along a Linear Path
You know those kids who ask their parents “why?” all the time? Well, that would have been me I suspect, were I not such a quiet kid. From an early age I wanted to know how everything worked. In hindsight, I was also an extremely creative kid. I would make mazes in my spare time, loved music, and would jump at the opportunity to build something cool. Not real, functional things, but rather popsicle stick bridges or sugar cube castles. I almost went to an art school in Grade 3, but cried at the thought of being forced to wear ballet shoes. Despite my insistence that I was clearly a genius at visual art, the admissions office had explained that my real strength was as a singer/dancer; a natural talent for musical theatre.
Somewhere down the line in life I had become a creative, energetic, sensitive, and funny person stuck in a boring, logical, regimented and fearful man’s body. I was always a smart and well-rounded kid, but put a lot of pressure on myself to do well in school. While I was always fairly mediocre at math, by high school something seemed to click for me, and I went from near failing grades to perfect scores on every math test. By the end of high school, my focus had changed from creative and artistic pursuits, to almost exclusively math and science ones. I also felt pressure to fast-track due to being stuck in Ontario’s double cohort year, where double the number of students were expected to be competing for the same number of university spots.
By the time I got to university, I felt as if I was on a fast track to the societal definition of adulthood (job, house, wife, 2 kids), with everything but my academic success being left behind. I was ranked 1st in my class in mechanical engineering, and I was miserable. My success pushed me to continue to succeed, but I had lost track of where I was even trying to go. I liked learning, and enjoyed most of my classes, but I hated the co-op jobs and felt socially isolated. At the age of 19 I was already working a 9-5 office job as a mechanical engineer with mostly middle-aged men. My high school friends were enjoying being teenagers for the summer, while I was photocopying paper and reading about boilers. I remembered being much more than just a math guy, but the other parts of myself were beginning to atrophy.
On the Road to Creating New Opportunities
I knew I needed a change, but I also felt like I needed to complete the program. It’s difficult to quit something when you’ve invested a lot of time and energy, and especially when you’ve been successful. So I kept chugging along and tried to hold on to my sanity for a while longer. “Engineering is like the military,” so they said.
By third year I had earned enough money working at a co-op job in the oil sands to afford my first car. I bought a used Honda Prelude, a relatively affordable and reasonably fast sports car, and was the envy of all my classmates. But for some reason I was not only intimidated by the idea of working on cars, but also ashamed of liking cars so much in the first place. With some encouragement from my roommate, I finally got the courage to do minor tasks. I began to obsess over car modifications almost immediately, and would skip class to tinker with the car. I started buying and selling parts on Craigslist, and met up with backyard mechanics to have work done for cheap. If my friends asked what I was doing, I would lie. “What’s that? Why do I have a carbon fiber hood? Well… I didn’t really want to do that or anything, it just sort of ended up there.”
By the last year of university I had given up on engineering jobs, and had no real plan for where I was going to go next. I made one of the best decisions of my life and took my last co-op term off to instead travel to Costa Rica where I learned Spanish and volunteered saving sea turtles. Suddenly I felt alive again! Parts of me that had laid dormant for years were reawoken. I enjoyed the challenge of learning a new language, learning how to salsa dance, and meeting travellers from all over the world. After I finally graduated from university I decided to live as I did in Costa Rica. I rented a room in Toronto with international students and took physics courses for fun. I took a bartending course, and worked at the university cafeteria serving beer and shawarma. I would laugh when engineering students saw my ring as they ordered: “You’re an engineer?” They would ask. “Yes I am!” I would say proudly as I dropped mashed potatoes on their plate. “Would you like sweet and sour sauce or corn with that?”
I went on to travel to Australia for half a year, and when I finally came back I still didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was eager to use my degree in some way, but wanted something more creative. I eventually decided to go back to school and get a masters in biomedical engineering. But as soon as I started an internship in the field, I could sense that it still wasn’t the right fit for me. To make things worse, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer just at the beginning of the program. Within a month, before I had time to process what was happening, I had surgery to remove my thyroid. I made a promise to myself that day: I was no longer going to live life by anyone else’s rules.
Taking Charge of the Road Ahead
I started doing a great deal of research on personality types in an attempt to understand myself better. I wanted to know why it was so hard for me to work as an engineer at a company, and why I didn’t like sitting in front of a computer. When I finally took a Myers-Briggs personality test it started to dawn on me. I read the description of my type, INFP, and it sounded like the author was describing my exact story. My struggles, my strengths and my weaknesses were laid out on paper exactly as I had experienced them in my life.
I finally understood what I needed. For me, it was most important to have autonomy, to be working on something that I could truly believe in, and to be authentically creative. I had never truly allowed myself to indulge in all three requirements, for fear that I would come across as selfish or entitled, and for fear that I couldn’t accomplish what I wanted on my own.
By the time I finished my master’s, I had been buying and selling motorcycles for three years and was getting addicted to the hobby. Like cars, I was hesitant at first to work on bikes myself. But I had tried a few different types, and was finally set on buying something cheap I could work on and transform into something unique. I continued to work as a biomedical researcher at a hospital, but my main interest became customizing my bike. I would stay late to spend time in the machine shop at the lab making parts for my motorcycle.
The real “aha” moment came after I started reading motorcycle blogs, and took notice of a new wave of custom motorcycles hitting the scene. There were some people just like me who had been struggling to find employment related to their degrees due to the state of the economy, and who had turned to building really interesting looking motorcycles. I saw a video about a guy named Tim Harney, who went from a secure job in architecture to building custom bikes, and I knew instantly it was what I wanted to do. In fact I remember declaring to my partner, Rebecca, that I was now going to be a motorcycle builder, working out of a grungy shop, with a dog just hanging out as I worked. She was excited for about a night, before she realized I was serious.
I quit my job as a researcher and started doing everything I could to prepare myself as a motorcycle builder. But I was terrified. I hadn’t worked as a tradesperson before, and I hadn’t yet done much work on motorcycles. I spent the next year volunteering at Habitat for Humanity, working as an HVAC technician’s assistant, taking welding courses, and working on my bike. At the beginning of the year I’m pretty sure everyone I know thought I was crazy.
“But you can’t make money on motorcycles, it’s cold in Canada!”
I didn’t care. The more my loved ones pushed me to get a normal job, the more I pushed back. I started working with an auto mechanic who said he would help me do the welding for my bike project, and teach me basic mechanic skills. While he did help me finish the welding, the arrangement went sour after only a few weeks, as he didn’t have enough time to teach me what I needed to know. The mechanic even went as far as to tell me that I wouldn’t make it in the industry, and that I shouldn’t quit my day job. His attitude only made me work harder.
After several months, and a roller coaster of ups and downs, I finally finished my first complete motorcycle customization this July. I haven’t made money from any of the work I’ve done, but I see it as an investment and as the first piece of work for my portfolio. I also have a plan in place for how I’m going to develop my business, and where I’m going to go from here. I’ve started to get a small amount of interest from family and friends to work on bikes, and have my first custom build for a customer scheduled to start soon.
Motorcycle before customization Motorcycle after customization
Staying On Course
I read an interview recently with a young motorcycle mechanic who has completed a showcased custom build. She said something so simple, but so important in finding your way in life that I think it’s appropriate here. The most important advice she got was to: “look where you want to go.”
“This applies to more than just riding. You must know where you want to go, it’s the getting there that creates the memories. Sure sometimes its not great, but you need those hard times to learn and that is what gets you closer to your goals, and gets to to where you want to go.” – Sophia Tsingos
It’s a concept we use in motorcycling to stay on course in a turn. As long as you look where you want to go, your body knows what to do to get you through the turn safely. We all get distracted somewhere along the way from where we truly want to go. But if we can stay confident, all we have to do is keep looking.
Brian Kates is a motorcycle enthusiast who loves to ride and customize bikes. He also writes about his projects and his experience transitioning on his blog Of Minds and Motorcycles (click here to follow link). For more information about his company Motobrix and his bike customization projects email firstname.lastname@example.org.
At this point in time, it’s fair to say my career is still in transition- but what an exciting transition it is. - Brandi Wagner
I’ll preface this post by saying I never knew what I wanted to be “when I grew up.” It changed weekly. Since I loved writing so much, and from a very young age, I defaulted on becoming an English teacher. But once I graduated, the English teacher plan no longer seemed to ﬁt. Neither did the graphic design degree that my father saw the potential for. And by the age of 21, after working in the service industry for 3 years, I felt the need to go back to school to do something towards my undetermined career. So I applied for the graphic design degree.
A mere week later, I found myself in an airport bookstore in Dallas, Texas during a layover. I never could’ve imagined it was there I’d find the exact book to take my interests, goals and career in a brand new direction.
This life-changing book was about Traditional Chinese Medicine, written in an easy to absorb format with hilarious verbiage. It spoke perfectly to a 21 year old who knew nothing about health. I was so inspired and energized from what I was learning. How did I not know the dangers of genetically modiﬁed food? Or that dairy produces mucous in our intestines? Or that healthy poop should look like a big brown banana? I was so intrigued and wanted to know more.
A short while later, I learned that I was too late in applying for the graphic design degree and there were no seats left in the program that semester. I was a little crushed, but the day I got the news, I immediately started researching nutrition degrees. Since I felt most inspired by alternative medicine, it only made sense to pursue the holistic route. Interestingly enough, I was living directly across the street from the only holistic nutrition school in British Columbia at that time (and had no idea). I enrolled a few weeks later and began my schooling in the fall of 2010. I wrote the board exam exactly 1 year later and graduated as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist.
The schooling changed my lifestyle and character in more ways than I could have imagined. Still, once I graduated, I was hungry for more. In perfect timing a Toronto based holistic nutrition school opened up it’s doors in Vancouver, so I went on to enroll there.
If I’m being totally honest with you, it hasn’t been an easy transition in to a career in holistic nutrition, although hard work and consistency does pay off. Initially, I kept my job in the service industry for a few years after I graduated while pursuing opportunities. On the side, I combined my love for writing with my passion for nutrition and started writing for healthy living companies and my own blog, while taking clients. Most recently, I decided to pursue my dream career instead of waiting for the “right time.” A month ago to date, I packed my life in to two suitcases and moved to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, one of the most inspiring places I’ve ever been. I made the decision to dedicate my time and energy to what fuels me with inspiration and fills me with purpose.
I’m currently living the dream of being my own boss, working from my laptop anywhere in the world, and educating about holistic health through my blog and holistic nutrition consulting. I’m also fortunate to have office space in San Miguel de Allende, where I can see clients in Mexico who are looking for natural solutions to sustainable weight loss.
At this point in time, it’s fair to say my career is still in transition- but what an exciting transition it is.
Brandi Wagner is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist from Vancouver, BC. Having ﬁnally found her way to wellness through nutrition, she is inspired to share her knowledge of holistic health and the impact of real food on ones radiance and inner glow. Brandi is often found creating homemade facials in her kitchen, writing (usually about food) and spending time on her yoga mat. For more from Brandi, visit her website at www.eatplantsbesexy.com, or follow the link here.
I am a dream-doer; I do what I love and have an overwhelming urge to expand my knowledge. - Ameer Barbara
My name is Ameer Barbara and I love dogs. It’s funny, if you asked me what my passion was 2 years ago, I would have said sports. I was your typical high school jock and I loved the attention. Nothing made me happier than to see my face in the local newspaper or adding another gold medal or trophy to my wall. This all changed when I got King.
First, let me tell you a little about me. I believe that in this world there are dreamers, there are doers, and finally, dream-doers (a word I just made up). I am a dream-doer; I do what I love and have an overwhelming urge to expand my knowledge.
My childhood challenge became my biggest strength.
When I was a kid, I was diagnosed with A.D.D (Attention Deficit Disorder). To this day, I see psychologists and psychiatrists regularly. They ask me a bunch of questions and give me puzzles to solve while I’m being timed; just call me Rainman. Having A.D.D is both a gift and a curse. A diagnosis of A.D.D only emphasizes what is considered wrong with a person, usually causing those who are diagnosed to feel shame and self-doubt. Don’t get me wrong, I got in a lot of trouble as a kid due to my lack of attention, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity, but without those traits, I would also be without accomplishments. I would not be the athlete I am today, for example. Ironically, the lack of focus that comes with having A.D.D carries something called ‘hyper-focus’ with it (both a gift and a curse). Everything I do has an almost obsessive feel to it. I’m a multi-talented, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-ball juggling nerd with a passion to learn.
One of the best examples of my love of learning happened when I met a girl named Victoria, who you could say was a classic case of ‘love at first sight’. I found out that Victoria was deaf and because I wanted to communicate with her I spent the majority of every day teaching myself ASL (American Sign Language). At first I would finger spell a lot of the words and within a few months of learning I became fluent; a feat that takes the average person 3 years of classes and a feat that I am supremely proud of.
Combining a passion for learning with a love for dogs.
My career journey began with King, a purebred Doberman Pinscher who is 2 years old and fluent in Arabic, English and ASL. He knows over 50 commands in all 3 languages. People say things like “he’s a human” or “he’s the smartest dog I’ve ever seen”. I say “like father, like son”. One of my first goals was to teach him ASL as I would be traveling a lot for track meets and Victoria would be taking care of him. When King was 6 months old, he had already transformed into an amazing dog.
Let’s rewind a little. King is a backyard bred dog, which means the breeder irresponsibly breeds dogs for money and usually means that the quality of the dog is very poor. Growing up he had aggression issues, he was unresponsive, didn’t follow any rules, was impulsive, hyperactive and what many people would call a ‘bad boy’ – Surprised? One of the reasons I connected with King so well was because I saw myself in him; the same characteristics he showed as a dog, I showed as a human and I wanted to help him harness his energy. I spent literally most of every single day educating myself on how to train King; and I even skipped my university classes to do so.
This part is the tear-jerker. In 2012 King was stolen from me, and I also became homeless. I dropped out of university for that semester and lived in my car, because I didn’t want my parents to know that I had failed on my own. After 2 weeks of relentless pursuit, I found King, and I borrowed money from my friend to buy him back. King and I lived in my car for a while until my track coach found out, due to my poor performances. He let me stay in his house with King. It gets worse. I was broke, homeless, a university dropout, and I get injured during the Olympic 400m trials finals. I guess you could say 2012 wasn’t my year.
After help from some of the best friends in the world, I got back on my feet. I continued to train King, but I saw that he was always tired looking and he was slowing down at only a year old. Originally, I thought it was because he had lived in stressful situations for a while. After some A.D.D-search (what I call anything I obsessively research), I came to the conclusion that it could have been his diet. I came across a lot of forums, all of which had raw food enthusiasts. I thought that by buying the most expensive and highest quality kibble, I was doing the best for King. I continued to research raw meat for dogs, and looked for answers to my questions: would ingesting raw meat make my dog aggressive or blood thirsty? What about salmonella? Could he choke on the bones? After all these myths were easily busted, I decided to give it a try.
From Learning to Doing - Creating KING'S RAW.
My research led me to learn about B.A.R.F – Biologically Appropriate Raw Food. B.A.R.F is ground up raw meat with bones and organs. I went to a butcher and I got some raw meat and portioned it myself. I also added in whole bone pieces for him to gnaw and jaw on. The reason I didn’t get the raw food from pet stores was because they had things in them that in my opinion were unnecessary, like fruits and vegetables, and they had preservatives. Also, they weren’t technically B.A.R.F as some would say “may contain bones”. The biggest reason, however, was how expensive it was; I simply couldn’t afford it.
…I’d like to tell you the 3 best decisions I made in my life: Stayed in school (except for that slip in 2012), ate my veggies (thanks Mom), and switched King to a raw food diet.
The first day I gave King his raw meat, he gobbled it up in seconds. There was an immediate change in his focus and energy. He became lively again! I was so happy to see him so full of energy. Within a week, his teeth got whiter, his coat got shinier, his stool got smaller and had no smell, and he was drinking way less water.
As I continued to feed King a raw food diet, I came to realize that there are very few things I am passionate about and one of them is dogs. I was at a point in my life that I had to make a decision between my long time traditional career plan of becoming a teacher, or pursue my real passion. Half way through Teacher’s College, I withdrew. I decided that I wanted to be a major part of the dog community and wanted to help educate other dog owners so that they could better understand their dogs and their dog's needs. This is how King’s Raw began.
…. The fourth best decision I made in my life was to start my own business, King's Raw. My name is Ameer Barbara and I love dogs.
I want each new book to be my best yet, but any career worth earning takes time. - Ashley Spires
Pursuing a new career requires patience and a back-up plan. This is particularly true for those of us in the creative field.
When I graduated with a degree in fine arts and scattered my portfolio to the wind, I balanced my time between anxiously awaiting a job offer from a publisher and preparing my safety-net job at teacher’s college. My first contract miraculously arrived just six weeks before I was to start school, so, naturally, I backed out of university and focused all my attention on illustrating my first picture book.
But that wasn’t all I was doing. I was working part time at an office job to pay the bills because, as most artists will tell you, first gigs pay peanuts. But you have to do the work if you want to get a second gig and so work I did. I was drawing on my lunch breaks and late into the evening after putting in an eight-hour day at the office and my weekends were dedicated to meeting my next deadline.
That’s pretty much how my life worked for the next six years. When I wasn’t working at the office, I was working at home on an illustration project. Or I was at the local dress shop where I also worked part time. Or I was making little hand felted finger puppets that I sold at boutiques across Canada. I was working all the time but most of the time it didn’t even feel like work. Okay, the day jobs felt like work, but the artistic jobs were bliss. I had no trouble- and still don’t- staying up until the wee hours pursuing my dream because it was just that, my dream.
By the time I was seven books into my career I was down to balancing just the office day job and my illustration contracts. Bit by bit I was able to let the other jobs go as they were replaced by more (and better paying) picture book contracts, magazine work and various other illustration based jobs.
It was a big leap to quit the day job and jump into being a full time author/ illustrator five years ago. A bit like hurling yourself off a cliff with an untested newly redesigned parachute. Thankfully I didn’t land with a splat. I have cultivated wonderful relationships with numerous publishers and my work is borderline hectic at times! I’ve reached a place where I have to turn work down, which is wildly difficult for the starving artist that still lurks within me. I’m still working into the wee hours pursuing my passion and now I don’t have to worry about getting up early the next day to get to the office on time.
Interestingly, despite stepping away from my path as a teacher, I now spend a good amount of time visiting schools across the country and speaking to students of all ages. I am invited to share my creative experience and encourage children to pursue what they love. I love telling young ones that, even though I was told I wasn’t the best drawer, I am drawing for a living. This is proof that, while my skill level may not be as high as some other illustrators, my love for what I do is apparent in all my work. I think that love is what readers respond to.
That’s not to say that I have met every one of my career goals. I still feel like I have a long way to go, but that’s why it’s still fun. Each project is another opportunity to create something new and expand to a larger audience. It’s a struggle to stay patient. I want each new book to be my best yet, but any career worth earning takes time. Onwards and upwards.
Ashley Spires is an award winning children's book author and illustrator. Visit www.ashleyspires.com for more information about her works. The Most Magnificent Thing is her most recent publication.
I survived by inventing transition strategies, though I didn't recognize them as such at the time - Michael Cooke
Transitions come in all sizes and shapes. I remember the valedictorian at the George Brown College convocation in 2009 who was graduating from the Dental Hygiene program. She told us that her mother picked her up from her final exam drove her half way home, stopped the car, told her to get out and walk the rest of the way, stopping at every dental office and asking for a job. By the time she got home, she had a job. A fairly abrupt transition for sure, but it worked.
In my case, I graduated from the University of Windsor in 1967 with a degree in French and Spanish and moved to Toulouse, France to purse graduate studies in French literature. I was most excited by the prospect of moving to a new country and getting a chance to use my French language skills. I hadn’t considered that the educational system was completely different, that I wasn’t nearly bilingual as I thought and that I had no experience living outside of my middle class bubble in southern Ontario.
I survived by inventing transition strategies (though I didn’t recognize them as such at the time). They included:
1. Immerse myself in my new environment and grow new roots
I moved into a place with French locals. I volunteered in a local school. I made friends with Martha, the cleaning lady at the school. I made friends with Maël, one of my professors. I watched French TV and went to French movies. It was all foreign to me. It was tiring. Often I made mistakes and people laughed. But people also befriended me and taught me about France from the inside out. This was in contrast to many of the English-speaking students whom I met at the university. They hung out together and spent much of their time looking at France from the outside in. I’m not sure what happened to them, but this year I was back in Toulouse (I go every two years) and spent time with Martha’s children, her grandson and her two great grandchildren. (She died six years ago.) And I spend time with Maël’s sister, his son, his granddaughter and his great granddaughter. The roots I planted in 1967 continue to grow and bear new fruit today.
I spent all my free time walking the neighbourhoods, discovering the outskirts on my moped and travelling with French friends on the weekends and school breaks to wherever they would take me. Thus I learned the fabric of the region, the magic of hundreds of villages that make up each department, the incredible network of roads that tie France together and make it possible to take ten different routes to get to the same place. As I explored, I fell in love with my new home and my new country, even while I missed Canada and my family and friends.
3. Keep a security blanket under the bed.
Of course, I felt homesick from time to time. So I kept a small case of Coca-cola under my bed. Somehow, that reassured me. And when the homesickness struck, I pulled out a bottle, sipped it slowly and re-read one of the precious letters from back home – there was no internet and I was only able to manage two very brief calls home in the two years I lived in France.
This is an old story of transition but it still fits Bridges’ definition cited at the top of Rebecca’s site. I had to let go of my old situation as a successful student with lots of job opportunities in Canada. Then, I had to suffer the confusion of landing in a country where I didn’t understand the language or the culture or the rules of engagement. And then, I had to create new roots, new relationships and in a way, a new public persona.
The payoff has been incalculable. I have two home countries. I speak two languages. I have deep roots in Canada and in France. I went on to work in France and then held at least five positions in my career where French and international experience were key assets in getting the job and succeeding in the role. My five children all speak several languages and by the time they reached 30, they had all travelled extensively and most had lived in other countries.
Michael Cooke was the Vice President Academic at George Brown College from 2000 to 2012. He spent his career in education and international development work. He lived all his life in big cities until he moved to a small farm property north of Kingston where he and his wife grow good food to eat and flowers for the table and eat honey from their beehives. This is a transition story for another blog.
Michael presented the first annual Michael Cooke Student Leadership Awards this year at George Brown College. I was lucky enough to be a recipient of one of these awards. The awards are named in honour of Michael, who served George Brown College in a number of leadership positions over the last 18 years, where he "worked tirelessly to ensure that each student enjoyed a rich and rewarding experience at the college".
As so many of us go through personal and professional transitions throughout our lives, it is truly inspiring to hear of people like Michael who continue to give back by teaching, leading, and mentoring others. This award is a reminder of those who have encouraged and nurtured me along my career journey, and my responsibility to do the same for others who are discovering theirs.
I truly love my job as it validates my passion and the sacrifices I have made to pursue it. - Nathan Scott
I realized I wanted to be a cook at the age of 19 when I dropped out of college for the first time after a semester of studying marketing. I completed a basic cooking course and got a position at a country club for the summer. After a few years working in various restaurants, I was getting sick of working evenings, weekends and holidays (you know, when normal people go out to eat).
While serving and bartending, I decided to go back to school for paralegal studies. I was always interested in the law and this would be a great way to find a day career in something I found interesting. However, after completing my diploma program, I found it difficult to find sustainable work in the field.
During this time I got an opportunity to work in car rental management. It wasn’t related to my studies, but it was work during the day, and not weekends or holidays. I found a knack for car rental as I moved up the corporate ladder quickly and found myself maxing out my monthly commission protocol, so much so that the company had to rewrite my contract because I was making too much money. After a year and a half of moderate success, I found myself in the good graces of my superiors which put me next in line for a promotion. With this would come fantastic perks and financial stability but also a long term commitment. Even though the money was great and I had a lot more time for friends, I felt hollow inside. I couldn’t see myself in this career for the next 5 years let alone 15 or 20. I was not into a job that just focused on money and moving up a corporate ladder. I have a great deal of respect for people who do a job that pays well, but I don’t think a lot of kids grow up wanting to rent out cars for a living. There was more that I wanted to get out of my life and I felt like I was wasting precious time.
On a vacation in the summer of 2009, I came to a crossroad. I needed to find something that I knew would satisfy me for the next 30 years of my life. After some family conversations and soul searching, I decided to resign from the car rental business and pursue my true passion, food. I got hired as an apprentice making minimum wage in the day and ventured back to bartending and serving in the evenings and weekends. A year later at the age of 30, I enrolled at Niagara College for the Culinary Arts program. Because of my previous experience and maturity, I was able to get through school fairly easily, but I also learned a whole lot more in the process. I guess I just valued my situation and opportunity because of what I had given up. After graduating, and after 8 months finishing up my apprenticeship, I passed my Certificate of Qualification exam and gained my Red Seal for cooking. It was worth it.
At the beginning of 2012, right after completing my apprenticeship, my wife and I ventured overseas to do a six month mission trip. On returning, I did a few months of job searching (which is like an actual job in and of itself), and found a few positions in the culinary field. Some were restaurant related but the one that caught my eye was an opportunity with Yonge Street Mission to head up their Lunch Program. I found them on Charity Village, a website which mainly serves the non-profit sector. With my recent experience being on a mission trip, I thought this would be a perfect transition for me. Right now with Yonge Street Mission, I menu plan and facilitate the lunch program that produces approximately 500 meals weekly for at risk youth ages 16-24. I truly love my job as it validates my passion and the sacrifices I have made to pursue it. It is much easier to get up every morning to go serve and help others while doing something I absolutely love. It’s hard to believe that it took so much time and resources for me to get to a place I never should have left. However, because of this journey, I have a deeper understanding and appreciation of my career and future.
Nathan Scott is Food Services Assistant at Evergreen Centre for Youth, Yonge Street Mission. To find out more about this organization and volunteer opportunities, please visit www.ysm.ca.
By demonstrating your skills you effectively make that which was theoretical into something real - Dr. Robert Englebert
I remember when I was an undergraduate student in the 1990s. It was the tail end of the Generation X movement, full of ripped jeans, plaid shirts, bad hairstyles, and depressing alt. rock music. Our parent's lamented the lack of initiative and enthusiasm that had defined their youth movement of the 1960s. This baby boom generation - the first to really experience universal university education - pushed us to attend university in record numbers and caused post-secondary institutions to grow at an alarming rate.
Driving much this university growth was the baffling presumption that all students who did reasonably well in school should go to university - an idea that remains prevalent in certain circles today. In fact, I distinctly remember a high school friend of mine who had quite the discussion with a school counselor because my friend wanted to go to college to become an auto mechanic and the counselor thought that he should go to university. But this blog entry isn't about university vs. college education. Many of my friends went to college and even more went to university, and they have all done well for themselves and found their own distinct paths.
However, that isn't to say that there was no difference. I noticed that my friends who went to college were trained specifically for a trade or profession and acquired those tangible industry-specific skills. On the other hand, those of us who received a liberal arts education were left wondering what we had achieved and how it was going to help us as we entered the working world. We were told that we had gained intangible skills – communication, critical thinking and analysis, etc. – but had no idea how these would help us after graduation. In other words, college grads knew what they were getting and how to apply it, and liberal arts grads didn't.
Reflecting on my own personal experiences and observations, I would like to shed some light on the longstanding debate over the usefulness of a liberal arts education and its relationship to the job market. What I suggest is that turning intangible skills into tangible skills allows liberal arts graduates to more fully demonstrate their training to prospective employers and helps in planning a career path.
It is significant to note that many of the current debates we hear and questions we face about the value of a liberal arts education have been around for the better part of thirty years. Back in the 1990s there were heated discussions about the usefulness of a liberal arts education and how these university graduates fared in the job market. At the time there were numerous studies that showed that companies preferred hiring liberal arts graduates who they could train to their own particular corporate culture. The argument was that liberal arts graduates obtained certain intangible skills – communication, research, abstract thinking and analysis, etc. - that gave them a leg up on the rest of the white-collar workforce. Later during the rise business programs, reports from companies like Google hit upon the inherent creativity of liberal arts grads as the overarching rationale for hiring them over graduates from other programs. Just this past year a report noted that while liberal arts grads endure a period of adjustment in the workforce they eventually ended up making as much if not more per year as post-secondary grads in other fields. Yet, there has been less discussion in the public sphere to explain the career success of those who earn a liberal arts degree. How do intangible skills and a penchant for creative thinking contribute to the career success of liberal arts graduates?
How to make what is intangible, tangible?
It is not that liberal arts grads obtain intangible skills and creative thinking and analysis while in school, but rather that they are able to make these skills tangible once they enter the workforce. It is this ability that leads to their success.
I propose this not only as a history professor who has spent more than fifteen years in a post-secondary environment, but also as someone who worked full time during part of my BA and took several years off to work in the "real world" between my BA and MA. I have worked abroad and in Canada, and done everything from banking, publishing, high finance and international sales, to customer service, manual labour, factory work, and serving tables. Each of these jobs forced me to show my skills – oral and written communication, active listening, critical thinking and analysis – so that employers could witness first hand my intangible skills. Consciously targeting, using and demonstrating intangible skills makes them tangible.
I came to realize that not everyone understands how to effectively demonstrate their intangible skills. For example, it is all well and good to talk about communication skills (writing, oral presentations, etc.), but it is incumbent upon a liberal arts graduate to demonstrate these skills. A well-written cover letter and a well-spoken interview display your skills. Moreover, concisely framing questions, answers and analysis in an interview or job setting lays plain the communications and critical thinking skills you have learned.
Another example of intangible skills is research and analysis. What do these actually look like in a workplace setting? One way is to attend an interview having effectively researched the company and the industry in which it is situated. By demonstrating your skills you effectively make that which was theoretical into something real. What I'm suggesting here is that one should work to avoid putting research as a skill on a C.V. and then muddle through the interview unprepared. Simply put, you have to show the skills that you tell a potential employer about and live up to the hype and expectations that you set up.
The value of intangible skills in figuring out your career path
One of the biggest concerns for liberal arts grads is that they have trouble figuring out what jobs they qualify for. The problem lies in the fact that a liberal arts education teaches thinking, communications, research, and analysis, but doesn't give you entrance into any specific field or prepare you for a particular job. However, using the skills obtained in a BA, MA or even PhD, one can work strategically to find a niche in the job market. Do you speak multiple languages? Sure there are customer service jobs available, but why not think about international business, where languages combined with communications skills can give you a leg up? Grad students in a discipline like history often read hundreds of pages per week and then have to dissect, compare and contrast, and analyze that information into concise and consumable notes, write-ups or reports. This skill is invaluable in the information age, with the overwhelming proliferation of data across numerous mediums. Government agencies and businesses alike are constantly seeking researchers and policy annalists with this exact skill. If your liberal arts education taught you to be an expert writer and specialize in editing texts then why not work as an editor? Editorial work is becoming more and more crucial because of the exponential growth of corporate online materials.
Thinking strategically about how best to position your liberal arts skills means exploring all possibilities. For graduate students this means looking for work beyond the university, in archives, museums, cultural institutions, government agencies, non-governmental organizations and businesses of all types. I am in no way suggesting that finding a job is easy or carving out a career using your liberal arts skills is a given. I know how hard it is. I've pounded the pavement, searched the papers and online listings, and felt the frustration of rejection. However, I have also seen how taking a strategic approach to a job and career search and making your intangible skills tangible can work. As they say, "the proof is in the pudding." Liberal arts grads continue to succeed despite the continued debates and concerns about how their education prepares them for the job market. Making intangible skills overtly tangible will only help you to realize that success faster.
Dr. Robert Englebert is an assistant professor in the College of Arts and Science, University of Saskatchewan, where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses and supervises at the graduate level.