Outside your comfort zone

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Earlier this summer I was approached with the opportunity to write as an alumni guest blogger and given that I have never written a blog before, I was genuinely both surprised and grateful.

What should I write about?

I thought about this question carefully for days, subconsciously probably for weeks. Having just graduated, I wanted to leave you – the business student sitting in the Rotunda working on an economics problem or down in the Li Koon Chun Finance Learning Centre learning how to use FactSet – with some advice that you might find valuable; a message that might resonate with you.

But first let me introduce myself. My name is Hibah Hashmi and I recently graduated in 2019 from the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) with an accounting specialist and an economics major. Like some of you reading this post, I was involved on campus, namely with the IMI Competition Group (IMIC), Habitat for Humanity UTM, and the Department of Management. But being involved didn’t always come easy because I wasn’t challenging myself to do things that were outside of my comfort zone.

I think the biggest advice that I could give people is to actually try and live beyond your dreams by pushing yourself, challenging yourself to do things a little bit outside of your comfort zone.”– Peggy Whitson (Retired NASA Astronaut)

Try something new

The priority in my first year of university was to get into the Commerce Program, my subject POST. I had a routine: attend lectures, have lunch with friends, study at the library, and occasionally go to office hours. Although this routine worked for me, looking back it was the year I experienced the least personal and professional growth.

Subsequently, second year hit, and I decided to branch out. I applied to every opportunity I was aware of to get involved on campus. I interviewed and had my fair share of rejections like most students. But in August 2016, I got an email that IMIC was looking to recruit four incoming second-year students to join their Mentorship Program as mentees. I kept reading:

“All mentees will be expected to attend the training sessions and workshops and successfully apply this knowledge at internal case competitions.”

Case competitions? I’ve never competed in one before. Regardless of all the questions that floated in my head and my lack of experience, I applied. Although I felt completely unqualified, I was fortunate to receive the position. In the weeks to come, I put myself in a place that felt a little outside of my comfort zone by participating in these competitions. Slowly these weeks turned into months and eventually years of competing. Something that was outside of my comfort zone became a normal activity to me. I wouldn’t say presenting to a panel of judges is something that I’m comfortable with, but it’s unquestionably less daunting.

Doors started to open up for me. Alongside competing, I learned the importance of networking, became aware of different industries, and was told by my peers of opportunities I was unaware of – which later proved to be the most beneficial to my development.

What I’m trying to say is…

It’s the start of a new academic year so make this one better than the last. Things won’t change until you start exploring things that are outside of your comfort level, and outside of your routine. For me that meant case competitions. For you that may mean something different such as going to more networking events, trying a new elective, starting your own initiative on campus, or simply introducing yourself to someone new.

Here are my tips:

  1. Make the decision to try new things. Challenge yourself (although know your limits, as your health and well-being are far more important).
  2. Apply everywhere and see where it takes you. If you’re given options, prioritize your time.
  3. If an opportunity catches your interest and you’re unsure about how beneficial it might be, try saying yes. You’ll never know how much you might benefit from it until you try.
  4. Make an effort to meet people. Not only may opportunities arise from knowing people, but the relationship can be mutually beneficial as you can learn so much from others’ experiences.
  5. Take breaks. Yes, your dreams are important. But as the saying goes, “Health is wealth.”

After graduating from UTM, I completed a Graduate Diploma in Professional Accounting (GDipPA) from Rotman School of Management. Currently, I am in the process of obtaining my CPA designation as a Staff Accountant at KPMG Canada.

I want you to know that writing for a blog is an activity that is definitely not inside my comfort zone. But I’m trying and I hope that until my next post, you will try to do things that challenge you, too.

Hibah Hashmi,
(BCom, 2019)

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