The early bird catches the amazing career, says recent grad

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What makes a successful student or young professional?

In my previous article, I discussed the importance of building your career while you’re still a student.

While my first article summarized some of my experiences and motivating factors, this article features a  peer of mine, Derrick Fung. In my opinion, he embodies the very concept of the student/young professional.

Derrick is a fellow University of Toronto recent grad who also understands the importance of starting your career early. He has completed coveted work terms at Microsoft, BNP and Merrill Lynch,  and he also found time to get involved with school organizations, climbing the ranks to become president of the Management and Economics Students Association at U of T. He is currently working with the Clinton Foundation in New York.

Q. In your opinion, when do you think students should start thinking about their career goals and gaining professional experience?

A. Students should start doing this in first year because it’s always good to know what direction you’re going to take. Similarly, students should start gaining experience ASAP – even in high school – if they know what career path they want to take. Competition is something students need to consider, but they also need to find their passion and work for causes they believe in. Having an early start allows students find what they really like as well as give themselves a competitive advantage.

Q. How would you summarize your four years of school and some of your key professional accomplishments?

A. Lots of extracurricular involvement balanced with school:

  • 2008 co-op student of the year
  • Gordon Cressy Leadership Award
  • MESA president
  • Work terms at Microsoft, BNP Paribas, and Merrill Lynch

I couldn’t have done any of this had I not taken the time to set goals and directions in first year.

Q. How did you manage the shifting responsibilities between school and your professional life?

A. Kept track of everything in my Outlook – time management is KEY:

  • Having a sense of what you want to do, and always striving towards the goal
  • Sacrificed a bit of social life to make ends meet

Q. What skills and/or traits have you noticed really make yourself and others like you stand out?

A. Leadership skills; being able to lead a team and deal with conflict. Communication, especially verbal/presentation skills. Overall business acumen.

I think anyone can pick up these skills regardless of their degree, and they are absolutely essential to your growth as a professional and individual.

Q. What do you recommend to young students who want to follow in your footsteps?

A. Try to figure out what you want to do as early as possible and always strive toward it:

  • Gain as much work experience as possible
  • Be a leader: join clubs and speak up
  • Failures will make you stronger: leverage them as experience and never give up

Do not limit yourself, even as a student you have a lot to offer. Always aim high and your dedication and hard work will pay off. Start today, go home and write down goals, research outlets and meet individuals!

Photo credit: The early bird catches the worm.
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