In Transition // Trains of Thought

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It’s only March and I’ve already broken one of my New Years resolutions – to sit down and write a blog post (or some sort of written piece) every two months. The last time I wrote anything substantial was in November.

Truthfully, I have been swamped with a bunch of career and life changes, and battling some health issues. I wrapped up my undergrad degree in December and have been on the job search since – transitioning from school to the “real world”. In the past weeks I’ve had some big decisions to make about which opportunities to pursue and which path I should go down, but I am very lucky to have a strong support system and people who are always willing to help (even without me asking!).

Finding the intersection between my long-term career objectives and my opportunities on the table has been an interesting journey – but I’m happy to say that I’ve made a choice and I’m not looking back or second guessing my decision.

In the Fall, I got very sick for a month and was put through four rounds of antibiotics before I recovered. I had never been so sick in my life and it really slowed me down from my usual fast-paced lifestyle.

This past month, one of my wisdom teeth got infected and had to be extracted. The accompanying medication came with a myriad of side effects, which I’m still very much struggling with. But all of this taught me a lot about patience, and the importance of good health. It’s something so critical to have – because without it, you can’t do anything else.

These days I have been looking back at what my life was a year ago – and it’s amazing to see how things change year over year. For example, in March 2014, I had just returned from my first-ever trip to Toronto during reading week, full of energy and motivation to make my dreams come to life as a 3rd year student. But living and working there was still just a far-fetched dream.

In March 2015, I was doing just that – working in Toronto, for not the first time but the second! Living on my own in a cozy apartment on Bay Street. Braving -30 degree weather and “real Canadian winter” for the first time. Having full independence, meeting new friends, and flying out of Pearson more times than I’d like to count.

And now in March 2016, I am back in Vancouver and have graduated, started my first full-time job out of school (in a completely new-to-me area), and recently bought my first car so I can drive to work – whaaat? I am experiencing another kind of independence – without the safety net of being a student, things like your finances become a heightened burden. Ensuring you keep nurturing friendships and relationships that are close to your heart (without the convenience of proximity) requires more effort. As does balancing work with other aspects of your life.

I am excited to see where this next chapter of my life takes me. What will life be like come March 2017?

Only time will tell.

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The Good Times And The Bad

There are many thoughts swirling in my head tonight surrounding adversity that I’d like to get down on paper. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the ups and downs in my life, how I deal with difficult situations and hardships that come my way, and the key things that I’ve learned.

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It all happened for a reason. When you’re in the thick of a tough situation or hardship, your vision is clouded and you’re not really able to see anything except the present. What I’ve learned through the ups and downs is that everything happens for a reason. You might not be able to see it right now, but when you look back and think, “What if things had gone differently?”, you’ll see that things happened the way they did to get you to where you are now.

Think about it. If things had even gone slightly differently in your journey, whether its a job offer, a relationship, your choice in education, or anything in your professional or personal life, the outcome would have been completely different and you would not be exactly who you are today. The best you can do is to trust your instinct, try your hardest, and trust that things will work out for the best.

Hardship shapes who you are, builds character, and shows you who your true friends and supporters are. Life is a classroom, and all the ups and downs are ultimately a learning experience.

You don’t have to respect people who don’t respect you. 

Respect is something that is earned, not given. And if someone decides that you’re not worthy of their time and respect, you really have no obligation to keep them in your life. Your time is precious – spend it with those who value and appreciate it. Don’t spend it chasing those who don’t.

I will never chase someone who doesn’t want to be around me. If you close the door on me, the trust is gone and likely, so am I. Likewise, if I close the door on someone, it will have been a well-thought out decision rather than a rash lapse of judgment, and I don’t expect them to stick around either.

Your support system is everything. I am tremendously lucky to have amazing friends who are always there to listen and hold me up when I need it. Quality over quantity, indeed. It’s nice to have a wide circle of acquaintances, but what really matters is who you can call at 3:00am when your world is falling apart in the thick of a crisis. I could stand losing a lot of things, but I can’t live without the deep friendships that I’ve cultivated and will continue to develop over the course of my life.

Sometimes, the tables turn in ways you least expect.

The Lessons I’ve Learned

It’s recently occurred to me that my year spent taking the road less traveled is ending in a matter of weeks, and life as I know it will change all over again.

I get asked questions a lot – from people at home, and people here. Why did you choose it? Which do you like more? What’s it like on the other side? To put it into perspective, I tell my friends here: “Imagine you pack your bags and move to Vancouver at a moment’s notice, where you don’t know a single person. You have to start from scratch. You are fully responsible for yourself. What would you do?”

What I don’t get asked is what I’ve learned. I’m nowhere close to being the same person I was when I arrived. And the life lessons you only learn from experience are arguably more game-changing than any career advice one could offer. I wanted to get a few of these things down on paper, as my viewpoint at age 21:

The notion of “doing it all” is possibly the worst expectation I could set for myself. I put so much unnecessary pressure on myself, and I try to be superwoman and hit the nail on the head in every single aspect for my life, and get frustrated when I can’t achieve it to those standards. This year I’ve learned that you CAN’T do every single thing perfectly all at once, and that’s 100% okay. There are only 24 hours in a day, and when you devote time and energy into one area, another will undoubtedly suffer. It’s all a balancing act, and it’s okay when the scales tip in a way that it shouldn’t.

I wear many hats – I’m a friend, daughter, sister, employee, marketer, ultimately a young adult trying to find her way in life – and sometimes one of them will require more attention.

Don’t sell yourself short. In anything in life. You have so much potential and so much to offer. Comparison is the thief of joy – be the best that you can be, and aim to keep topping your own standards. When you stop looking around and focus on bettering yourself, things just fall into place.

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Being an organized person by nature, I love to plan and coordinate and colour-code. I own two Moleskines, I create to-do lists like its my job, and nothing makes me happier than crossing things off.

Historically, it doesn’t matter who you are – if I hang out with you, you go into the calendar so that I remember and can plan around it. But this year, I’ve learned that some most of the best moments I’ve had are spontaneous and unplanned. I used to need to plan my evenings/weekends in advance, and now I just roll with whatever comes up and it ends up being a great time. When you live life on the go, things change at a moment’s notice and whatever you had down on paper is now irrelevant. The key is to learn how to just go with the flow (as cheesy as that sounds).

Quality definitely trumps quantity in the company you keep.

If you love someone, tell them, and remind them often. You never know when it may be too late, and you could scream it at the top of your lungs and they would never hear you.

Trying to be anyone other than yourself is a waste of your time. Don’t apologize for who you inherently are. Surround yourself with people who love and accept you the way you are. Kick to the curb anyone who tries to change the basis of who you are to fit their idea of “perfection”.

Setting Thursday happy hour as a weekly recurring meeting on Outlook is probably the best idea known to mankind.

Just relax. Everything is going to be okay.

Objectively speaking, time you enjoy “wasting” is not actually wasted.

One Big Scary Adventure

…that my life has become.

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I’ve come to the realization that I’m more than halfway through my time in Toronto- and that’s crazy. It feels like just yesterday that I set my suitcases down in my apartment, took a deep breath, and thought, “Well. This is life for the next 7 months.” 

Looking back at the last 4 months, it’s incredible how much I’ve experienced- things that I would’ve never imagined in my wildest dreams. Just putting myself out there, continually being uncomfortable (and admittedly a little scared at times), and always taking risks has changed my life in ways I never thought possible.

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When things feel stagnant and you start feeling complacent, my number one remedy is to switch things up and try something new. I can actually count the number of times I’ve gone to an event or walked into a room not knowing a single person, and came out of the experience feeling endlessly glad that I took the plunge.

Yes, it’s scary. As you make your way there, every cell in your body will scream at you to turn back. Why deliberately put yourself in such a potentially uncomfortable and awkward position?

Because there’s not been a single time where I’ve regretted putting myself out there. That’s the only way you grow as an individual. Life can’t be the adventure you want it to be without taking risks. And the people you meet just might be people you now can’t imagine living without.

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I’ve also grown so much at work and career-wise. I was compiling an interim report for my co-op office last week and while writing, found it difficult to fit all the things I’ve done during my time here into the one-pager. I’ve dived into an area of Marketing that is 100% net new to me- it’s never been taught in my undergrad classes- and I’m spending every day just learning and absorbing as much as I can.

In the 4 months that I’ve been here, I spent a week back in Vancouver. I spent a week in South Carolina. I’ll be going up North this long weekend for my first-ever cottage experience. I’ll be flying to Edmonton next month for a weekend. And I’m looking to make a New York trip sometime during the summer months.

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I’ve also learned many things about myself along the way. Like the fact that while I love being around friends, I also can’t go too long without getting in some quality me-time. That it’s important to stay connected with the people you love, no matter where you go in life, and to not forget your roots. And that I put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself to do everything perfectly, all at once, when it’s simply impossible to do so.

It’s been a great year so far- of learning, growing, and experiencing. I’m really excited to see what adventures the summer will bring!

Change Someone’s Day in Ten Seconds

“Climbing the Corporate Ladder” – IDS Toronto 2015 Exhibit

People won’t always remember you, but they will remember how you made them feel.

Above everything else, I believe in treating people with respect. It doesn’t matter if its your boss, the cleaning lady, the CEO, the gardener, an elderly woman trying to cross the street, a young child- treating everyone equally with kindness and respect just goes such a long way.

The janitor at your office is mandated to clean up after you, and your direct reports are mandated to do whatever tasks you assign them- its their job- but something as simple as smiling and saying “Thank you” goes way further than you know. Everyone likes to feel appreciated for what they do. Saying that you don’t have time to acknowledge their presence is nonsense- it doesn’t require any extra time on your part at all.

I know this because it affects me the same way. When people treat me kindly or make me feel like I matter, I remember it, and it can boost my mood for hours. And when people do the opposite and put me down, I remember it, and it can ruin a perfectly good day in a second. The same principle applied to when I was working my first summer job at 14 years old behind the counter at McDonald’s, and it applies when I am a concierge for UHNW clients at high profile company events. It doesn’t matter where you are or what you do- the concept of respect is universal.

I was in the restroom after work hours at the office one night, and there was a lady doing maintenance cleaning. Before I exited, I stopped and said, “Thanks so much for cleaning up after us. We really appreciate it.” And she returned a big smile and a “You’re welcome.” It made both of us feel good, and the exchange took all but ten seconds.

I have immense amounts of respect for people who work in blue-collar or pink-collar service jobs, having been one of them for many years. In fact, even though I now work in a highly corporate office environment, sometimes I find myself working on the front lines in client-facing roles where my years of customer service experience comes in handy. When it comes down to it, I’m never afraid to get my hands dirty.

But it doesn’t matter what you do or where you work in. We’re all the same underneath- we’re human.

Everyone wants to be successful, but was it really success if you step on other people to get to where you are? We all have our off days, but taking a minute to appreciate those around you and those who serve you will go further than you could ever imagine.

Complacency Is A Killer

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Something that has been on my mind recently is the concept of complacency. Truth be told, the refusal to be complacent has always been ingrained in me. As one thing ends, I am always looking for the next big thing, the next challenge to sink my teeth into, the next great opportunity. Sometimes I feel like I am physically incapable of sitting still and being unproductive- I need challenges to thrive.

Complacency is a killer. When you allow yourself to be too comfortable without doing anything about it, you stop growing and you stagnate. The moment you feel like the biggest fish in the pond, is the moment you should be taking yourself out of that environment. It’s easy to fall into that trap. It’s safe and familiar, and you know exactly what you are doing.

But instead, aspire to be in a room where everyone is smarter and/or more competent than you. Only then will you learn and grow and push yourself to become even better. Learning doesn’t stop after your formal education, nor does it stop when you’ve reached the top of the hierarchical ladder- there is always something that you can improve on.

Don’t be complacent. You won’t be doing yourself any favours. You owe it to yourself to strive to be the best that you can be. Venturing out into the unknown can be nerve-wracking and scary, but it’s only when you’re uncomfortable that you are able to test your limits, thrive, and realize what you are capable of.

My First Corporate Event Planning Experience

This blog post was originally published to the RBC Meetings & Events Connect page on July 10th, 2014. It details my RBC experience up to that point in my internship (about mid-way), and I thought it would be interesting to share on my own blog as well.

How do I even begin to describe the past 7 weeks of my time with the Meetings & Events team?

As someone who is relatively new to event planning, having only planned fundraisers and conferences for up to 250 people prior to this role, events in the corporate world were an entirely brand new experience. 2 months ago, I had no idea how to manage a webcast, had never worn a comm headset, seen a BEO (Banquet Event Order), gotten up at 5:00am for a 15-hour work day, or written a creative brief.

It has been my richest learning experience yet. And I know most summer students would say the same thing about their role, but I mean it in every sense of the phrase.

Starting at a new company always comes with a steep learning curve as you try to feel out the corporate culture and put faces to names, but in my client-facing role, I was whisked past dozens of new faces everyday, both in and outside of the office. Strong communication and interpersonal skills are mandatory for the job as you interact with so many different contacts for even just one single event, and they play a large role in facilitating clear, effective working relationships.

Through my role, I got to visit so many cool venues, and work on-site in completely new environments outside of the office. I helped organize countless town halls and other events- some in RBC buildings, and others in venues such as the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, TIFF Bell Lightbox, and the CBC Glenn Gould Studio. I am originally from Vancouver, so I got to do some “sightseeing” (sort of) while on the job.

If there’s one thing I could say about my job, it’s that it keeps me on my toes. One day I would be at my desk in the office, and the next I would be backstage at the MTCC in complete darkness, managing a webcast with a crew of audio-visual professionals, or doing a site visit and meeting at a hotel. I’ve never felt bored in this role because there’s always something new and exciting to take on.

Learning how to negotiate with venues and suppliers, identify key objectives, and think critically and logistically down to the smallest detail has given me a whole new perspective into the event planning world. Event planners have the sharpest attention to detail– there is so much thought that goes into every single step of the process, but the smooth execution makes it seem effortless.

Of course, there is also a technical component to the job as I learned how to navigate and monitor WebEx and Webcast sessions, set up recording devices, work with the audio-visual crew, and set-up/tear-down for the actual event.

Another thing that I absolutely love about my job is how much I get to learn that is NOT related to my job. Because I sit in so many different town halls from all lines of business, I gain so much insight into what’s going on not just in my department, but across the entire organization. I learn about each group’s strengths and weaknesses, and their strategies for the upcoming quarter- things that I would never have known otherwise.

The past 2 months have been exhilarating, exhausting, and amazing at the same time. I could not have asked for a more fulfilling summer work experience, or a more supportive and dedicated team to work with. I am excited to see what the rest of the summer will bring!