My whole life I thought good grades, attending reputedly schools and working hard would get me where I wanted to go. Yes, that can be important, but as I reflect on what I am going to tell business graduates next week at a Waterloo alumni event, I will not focus on what we all think equates to success, but rather what will help them stand out. When I am sitting with these eager, youthful students, I will stress the importance of these 3 things, of which don't include a fancy education.
1) Travel - The education that comes with travel, is priceless. No matter where you travel to, if you are outside of familiar territory, you will undoubtably be forced to problem solve, step out of your comfort zone, and learn other cultures. All three of these learning experiences will benefit you. When I left Waterloo at the age of 23 and boarded a plane to France, I will never forget the feeling I had. When you are surrounded by people who have known you your whole life, it is hard to not sub-consciously feel as though people define you from their experience of you, and not who you have become as of today. When I was on that plane, I knew I was going to meet people for the first time, and for the first time, I got to define who they were meeting. The opportunity to define who you have become, and not to be constrained on what you have done in your past, will give you confidence. Confidence and compassion are grown when we travel, and are essential for a successful career.
2) Social Intelligence - Why we are not taught social and emotional intelligence in our schools is something that troubles me, as it can be the deciding factor if you get a job and if you succeed within an organization. A sad fact for some, but it is a reality - people don't hire grades, or accomplishments, but the person they want to work with. 90% of communication is non-verbal, so understanding how people hear you, will help ensure you are delivering the message you want. As they say "people don't remember what you say, but how you make them feel". I am not saying that partying is more important than studying, but understanding people will be vital to reaching your goals, in any career.
3) Be Kind & Honest - Two years ago I was waiting in Porter Airport and striked up a conversation with the three people that surrounded me. I proceeded to polish my boats with a travel kit, and once noticing that the three of them also had boats that could use a polish...I went on to polish there's. The next day, I got a call from the Toronto Star, and they ended up doing a full length article on my charity. Why? Just because I did something nice. The power of reciprocity is within us all and is extremely motivating. Just remember that everyone has a story and a cause that moves them. My last point and arguably the most important, is to be honest. It seems obvious, but trust is something that once broken, can be the hardest thing to gain back. I have been in sales and saving a colleague, a boss or a product can put you in a bind, but being honest will benefit you long term.
These three things may be obvious to some, but I can't stress how important they have been for my development and I strongly believe are paramount for success in any industry.