Building Skills, Building Confidence

As you embark on your university experience, you are bombarded by various sources of exciting new knowledge. As a Ted Rogers School of Management student, you are deep-diving into topics ranging from corporate finance to human resources and business law. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of content you do not know and have yet to master. This experience can feel like trying to drink from a fire hydrant. And while doing your best to soak up subject matter, it can be easy to put off the challenge of converting that content into core skills.

Winning competition team
Brian Baah (second from left) with team. 2nd place finish at the Engineering Commerce Case Competition, March 2016, Montreal.

As a result, it should come as no surprise that as many students draw near to the end of their university experience, they grow anxious about the daunting task of translating that knowledge into a verifiable skill set to showcase to employers. They may feel ill-prepared to trot out those analytical skills that they have developed in the classroom. Or uneasy that their mettle has not been pressure-tested. However, mindfully seeking out involvement in student organizations and case competitions can provide students a much needed forum to practice and hone their skills.

Translating Subject Knowledge into Core Skills

Any student can attest to the fact that there is a meaningful distinction between understanding content intellectually and applying it – especially under duress. Regardless of what field a student chooses to enter upon graduation, certain core skills will be crucial for success: analytical thinking, communication, and perseverance. These traits are assets in every industry and are important inputs for professional success. In order to convert the subject matter into a fixture of their toolkit, students must actively seek out opportunities for growth.

As a student, tossing yourself into a 3-, 24-, or even 72-hour case competition (followed by presenting your solutions to seasoned industry executives) may sound overwhelming, but it is those experiences that build your core skills in a way that classroom learning simply can’t match.

At one particular competition, the Engineering Commerce Case Competition (ECCC) in Montreal, my team and I were tasked with creating a viable market application that leveraged brain control interface technology (BCI). In eight hours, we designed a mock prototype and identified a partnership opportunity with exoskeleton producers that had significant healthcare (rehabilitation) and manufacturing considerations. This type of experiential learning is fundamental to becoming a well-rounded professional and an intellectual exercise that could not have been learned through lectures.

Understanding the Value of Effort

Confidence comes from a recognition of the value you bring to the table. TRSM provides endless opportunities for you to build that confidence while still in school. My undergraduate business degree at TRSM allowed me opportunities to compete from coast to coast in Canada, from Vancouver to Halifax.

When I first joined TRSM, I was looking for ways to build on my communication skills. I auditioned for Ryerson’ Next Top Speaker – a university-wide speech competition that allowed me to compete and learn from some of the best public speakers on campus. Winning that competition improved my confidence and sent me chasing other opportunities to build my skill set.

Brian Presenting at Competition
1st place finish, Ryerson Next Top Speaker Speech Competition, Toronto, March 2013

During my time at Ryerson I was extensively involved with JDCC Ryerson, in an effort to continue building my analytical and communication skills. In the 2016 competition my debate team and I placed 3rd overall out of 14 universities and I was awarded the JDCC competition’s Top Debater. This anecdote is one of many that characterized my undergraduate experience and is indicative of the opportunities available at TRSM.

Celebrating a win
JDCC Ryerson Debate 3rd Overall, Top Speaker, Jeux de Commerce Central, Toronto, January 2016

Students can build confidence in their abilities by seeking out opportunities that allow them to assess their skills.

Win, lose, or draw, every experience you have that stretches your comfort zone ultimately expands that circle – giving you more confidence to maneuver the next time.