It is difficult to reflect on the experiences which truly impact our lives. For example, if someone asks a generic question such as “who are you?”, you might respond with your career title, your name or (most likely) with a puzzled look and a loss for words. Similarly when friends and family ask me about the trades mission in August, the conversation usually sits through an awkward pause as I try to concisely express this adventure. “Good” just doesn’t quite cut it.
Junior Team Canada has been the most challenging and rewarding experience of my life.
And perhaps that’s the best way to begin. As I’m sure that many of you are familiar with the arduous task of sponsorship, I will try to keep this brief. For the majority of June and July, I woke up to my alarm clock, sat down on my desk with a steamy cup of tea, opened up my laptop and asked myself what on earth I was doing with my summer.
JTC operates on the principal of “earning your spot on the bus” rather than lengthy application forms and transcript screening. We were each given the task of procuring a minimum of $5,500 for the trades mission. This was tough, especially without family connections- but I truly believe that this was the most important lesson I’ve gained from JTC: leverage your (dis)advantages.
For example, some of you in first year may feel as though students entering commerce with prior business experience have an advantage (I certainly did)- but consider framing the situation differently. Due to your prior academic background in the sciences or the arts, you are likely able to add a different dimension to the classroom and problem solving. You are also provided with the incentive to work harder and challenge yourself more than ever before. And the sense of achievement you earn from succeeding in a particular course will be exponentially more rewarding. This is an advantage.
Sponsorship eventually came together (everything’s a little blurry at the moment), but there were definitely some key takeaways from this experience;
- Media (this gives any event or cause credibility)
- Referrals (adults all have a valuable network which you can tap into, so take the initiative to meet your mayor, the economic development office, MP, MPP, Lions club, Rotary chapter)
- Networking (introduce yourself, talk about the things you are passionate about- it’s a small world)
- Branding (understand where you can offer value, what would You.Inc represent?)
By August 2, I had secured 11 enthusiastic sponsors and accumulated a hefty list of trade mandates to complete. Mind you, there was a significant degree of failing involved in my sponsorship efforts. It was tough to be ignored/rejected again-and-again via phone, e-mail, fax, in-person… but as Confucius once said “it does not matter how slow you go, as long as you do not stop”
On August 3, I met the JTC ‘10s for the first time and took off to Beijing. If you are interested in reading about the details of the trades mission to China and Malaysia, feel free to check out these links:
Prior to the trades mission, I had never stayed up for 24 hours or pulled an “all-nighter”. And in those three weeks, I had spent several days/nights working. Without caffeine. There’s something quite incredible about being on a JTC team and just… not ever feeling tired. Because you were genuinely in love with what you were doing.
Basically, it was our job to complete certain tasks on behalf of our sponsors; conduct market analysis, opportunity assessment, search for potential trade opportunities (importing, exporting, investment etc.) and work to establish positive cultural exchange. We met with businesses, not-for-profits, political leaders, youth, students. There was never a daily itinerary- the experience was what you made of it and often depended on how well you can improvise. It was flustering at first- how are we supposed to navigate this country with such a big language and cultural barrier in a matter of hours? How do we arrange a meeting with the CEO of a Chinese business for tomorrow? How do we take the subway/taxi/train/etc to the meeting in an hour? Where can we do laundry?
So I guess if you were to ask me what I learned from spending three weeks in China and Malaysia, I’d say that I learned to recognize and embrace opportunity. Because golden opportunities tend to push us out of our comfort zones. And they tend not to be accompanied by applications or permission forms.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving,