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by Sydney Hucal. Photo courtesy of Neil Henderson. 

Although things looked a little different this year, excitement hung in the air as Gustavson’s graduating class gathered for the annual Beyond your BCom event. This celebration brings together alumni and business professionals to offer guidance and direction to students as they begin to chart their course for the next phase of their journey.

On deck to give students some advice was Neil Henderson, BCom ’11 and CEO of the software company Rebase by Redbrick. After a decade of learning, a couple of entrepreneurial ventures and a career pivot that landed him in the tech industry, Neil has collected a wealth of well-earned wisdom. Before the students set sail, Neil shared 10 tips to make starting a career post-graduation a little bit easier.

1. Doors open with yes

Early in your career, say yes more than you say no. Keep your hand up for the extra opportunities and projects because it will get you noticed and help you learn.

2. Bump lots and lots of elbows

Build relationships and grow your network. Expanding your connections is the key to landing new opportunities and sailing through rough waters. “During my time with Student Works Painting, I made sure to focus on my client relationships and it paid off,” says Neil. “I stayed in touch with one of my clients who ended up being the hiring manager for the team at Redbrick Technologies and she helped me get in the door even though I had no knowledge in tech.”

3. Expect imposter syndrome

If you got the job, then you deserve to be there. It will be tough to feel comfortable, especially at the start, but if you keep pushing through, eventually you will gain the confidence and the knowledge to find your footing.

4. Get comfortable outside of your comfort zone

Great things come from stepping outside of your comfort zone. “It is easy to coast, but when you do take the leap into the unknown, embrace the challenge and recognize the discomfort,” says Neil. “These experiences will help you to learn and grow.”

5. Failure happens

Business is hard, especially in the start-up world. Failure can happen at any point in the journey and it can happen to anyone. It is rarely one specific person’s “fault,” so it is critical to detach the failure from the person, to understand that context plays a part and to move on to whatever is next.

6. Mental health matters

Don’t get caught up in working through the stress and bearing the burden alone. “Take care of yourself and find your form of meditation,” says Neil. “For me, this means scheduling a game of squash to break up the day and to focus on hitting a little black ball against a wall.”

7. “I know exactly what I want to do” … said no one ever

Very few people have it all figured out and it is rare to find the perfect job on day one. It is a journey to find your purpose and your calling – “I’m still on that journey.”

8. Remember the four “Referability” habits 

    • Be on time
    • Do what you say
    • Finish what you start
    • Say please and thank you

9. Now is the time to experiment

This is a great time to try something new before life gets serious and you have too many responsibilities. Take the leap and do that thing you know you want to do!

10. Patience is a virtue

Calm down, slow down and take your time. It takes time to work your way up and to work your way through. Enjoy the journey and relish in the moment, because looking back, it will all feel like it happened too fast.