We asked alumni: if they could turn back time, what would they tell their graduating selves as they walked across the stage to receive their degree. Here’s what they came up with:
Aliya-Jasmine Sovani, BA 2005
“Be persistent in the pursuit of your dreams. They will come true. Along the way, people will try to fit you into a mold; these people will be older, wiser, and more successful. Don't listen. Later, you will wish that you had nourished confidence in what makes you “weird”, for it will turn out to be your magic. Choose a goal bigger than yourself - one that has a greater purpose - and focus your talents on feeding this dream. Defy the conventional, do it with all your heart, and do it with your foot pressed firmly on the gas pedal without any intention of letting up.”
Diana Kolesarova, BCom ’16
“Stay engaged as an alum. It’s a gift to be able to give back and help the school, its students and programs; innovate.”
Samantha Jones, BA ’17 (Lettres française)
“Stick with your goal and work your butt off; it’s worth it. But that doesn’t mean trample others: always help out others the way you’d like to be helped. Be kind and smart.”
Elias Hage, BCom ’07
“Don't fear the unknown career path: jump in, and if the path directly ahead isn't for you, learn from it, succeed at it, then move on - never mentally check out!”
Adam Moscoe, BA ’13 (Psychology), MA ’16 (Public and International Affairs)
“Your present and future are unlimited. Allow yourself to be open to personal and professional possibilities that you may not currently be able to imagine. Never screen yourself out of an opportunity. Advance your own goals, not your social media clout. And never fall into the trap of thinking that ‘others are well-positioned be successful at this, but not me.’ You are ready and your time is now.”
Alexandra Bissinger, BASc ’09 (Civil Engineering), MEng ’13 (Civil Engineering)
“Learn as much as you can, get your hands dirty and spend some time on site. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and to work long hours. Basically act like a sponge. As you progress from engineering intern to professional engineer, you will be expected to know A LOT of things, so make sure you’ve spent some time in the boots of a contractor and understand what you’re designing and how it is constructed on site. Too often we run into designs completed by engineers that spent no time on a construction site and don’t understand the constructability of things!”
Sharon Wong, BSc ’92
“Don't be afraid to take the project that nobody wants to do. Whether you think that the work is too hard and not your area of expertise, that you don’t have time, or that it’s beneath you, take the project on anyways and do it with a positive attitude. You’ll become known as a team player, you’ll learn something new about yourself, and you may gain valuable skills that no one else has in your group. You might even end up enjoying it!”
Aryan Habib, BCom ’15
“Build a career in an industry you’re passionate about, and you'll be eager to take on any challenge you come across.”
Wissam Elhage, BASc ’04, MBA ’09
“Push your limits and don’t be afraid to take risks that take you away from your comfort zone. This is how you will be challenging yourself to become more experienced.”
Marie-Ève Trahan, BA ’17 (Lettres française)
“Don’t try to be perfect or to do everything perfectly without ever failing. Life doesn’t work that way. Always learn and improve, that’s all you can and should do.”
Mariam Siddiqi, BA ’13 (English), BEd ’14
“Write out your dreams the day you graduate: a one-, five-, and ten-year plan. Revisit them often. Also for job applications, every 90 emails will get you an interview. Don't give up!”
Robert Peake, LLB 2007
"I would tell myself not to feel at all constrained by traditional career progressions, as the most enriching experiences arise from creating your own opportunities. Moreover, I would tell my graduating self to have full confidence in the international value of a bilingual and bijural Canadian legal education."
Edwine Alphonse, BCom 2006
"I would tell my graduating self that every day is a new beginning, a new day to start fresh and to be someone who matters, or to do something that matters. The measure of success can be building a company or building a home, it can be winning a prize, cooking a nice meal, or being able to travel and experience the world. Also, never be afraid of failing. When you fail, don't lose the lesson, don't lose yourself, but find yourself and embrace the opportunity to become a more thoughtful person."
Majda Dabaghi, LLB 2006
"I was told that a law degree would open many doors and I had no idea just how true that would be. My law degree from the University of Ottawa has allowed me to work around the world, including in London, São Paulo, Dubai and now Paris. I would encourage students to develop their critical thinking skills rather than to try to memorize knowledge, and then pursue opportunities they are passionate about."
Walid Araghoune, BSocSc 2013
"What I wished I had known when I graduated … when I was handed my bachelor’s degree, I was very ambitious. I expected to return to Montreal, send out a few CVs here and there, land several interviews and pick my dream job. But in fact, reality hit hard. I would have wanted to know that getting into the job market requires planning, organization, but most importantly, a well-defined goal. I can confirm that the day I obtained my degree was the day my real final exam started, and I didn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel."
Valérie Proulx, BASc 2007
"What I would tell my graduating self… that everything would work out! Have a plan, but allow for deviations, since you still have so much to learn. And keep working hard: the real work begins now!"
Gordon Charlton, LLB 2003
"I would tell myself that part of having a successful career is being lucky. You cannot plan everything and hard work alone is not what determines success. There are ways to create luck – most importantly be kind and helpful to everyone you work with whether they are a client, competitor, junior colleague or senior executive. Hard work, competence and expertise are, of course, very important but sometimes it comes down to being in the right place at the right time. And if you have good relationships with people, luck will probably find you."