Brewing up opportunity over a cup of joe

dave wilken profile pictureI often refer to myself as an entrepreneur by mistake. When I started school at UWaterloo I had no idea that I would eventually start my own business. The turning point for me was when I experienced firsthand how powerful something as simple as a conversation over coffee can be.

While in school and applying for summer jobs I quickly grew frustrated when the companies I was applying to told me that due to my year of study and age I would only qualify for jobs at the administrative level. I had years of experience working with non-profits and organizing events throughout high school and university but because of the years of study associated with my resume I was not being considered for other positions that I knew I was qualified for.

What I needed was for my skills and experience to speak for me. I decided to try another route. I removed the years of study off my resume, created a portfolio of all my experience and began asking C-level executives at the companies I wanted to work at to go for coffee with me. Eventually I went for a coffee with my now mentor, Mia Pearson. I showed her my portfolio and discussed my experience with her. Following our first meeting she asked me to meet her again. This time I thought she was going to offer me a job but she didn’t. Instead she told me, “I want to hire you but I won’t. You need to start your own company.”

So I did.

dave wilken and john betsPhoto caption "Dave Wilkin and CEO of McDonald's Canada John Betts having a conversation over coffee."

There is no doubt that the job market is changing. In fact, over 80% of jobs that will exist in a decade do not exist today. What’s more, as I discovered and many other young people can attest, the traditional resume doesn’t capture these new skill sets in a way that effectively connects young people with industries.

I believe that in order to better connect with the real world, young people need to step outside of their comfort zone and reach out to business leaders and professionals to get advice and share ideas and insights. On the flip side, due to the ever-changing nature of technology, business leaders can also gain insights from the millennial generation on how they can better connect with their generation or leverage new technologies to increase their business. When both parties have something to contribute to the discussion, everyone wins.

There are 7 million millennials in Canada, all tech savvy digital natives. Imagine what we could achieve if we combined their digital savvy nature with a simple, powerful face-to-face approach to mentorship? It will be the 21st century way for young people to connect with industry leaders and unlock opportunities. A conversation over coffee changed the direction of my career. How will it impact yours? Whether you’re just starting out or well-established in your field, the possibilities are truly endless. You really never know where the conversation will take you.

All photos by Sean Penhall Photography

Dave Wilkin BSc ‘10– Founder, Ten Thousand Coffees & Redwood Strategic

@DWilkin

www.TenThousandCoffees.com

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