York grad Jian Ghomeshi inspires students to get excited about their futures

For a lot of students, thinking about their future careers is fraught with anxiety. Many worry about things like, "Is it as hard as I’ve heard?", "Will I find a career I like?", and "Can I do it?" The Career Centre, with support from Alumni & Advancement Services, hosted Career Conversations ’08-’09 Launch on Thursday, Sept. 25. The event was designed to dispel some of the misconceptions about careers that cause anxiety and to help students get excited about their career possibilities. In addition to workshops and on-the-spot advising, students were invited to hear an inspiring success story from York alumnus Jian Ghomeshi (BA ‘95).

Ghomeshi told the students how his career evolved from his time at York to his most recent success as host of CBC Radio’s "Q", which moved to the prestigious 10am time slot on Monday, Sept. 29 – a role Ghomeshi calls his "dream position". He talked about exploring a variety of interests that included theatre, music, political science, women’s studies, social activism and politics during his time at York.

Left: Jian Ghomeshi

"York University was where I formed my ideas… where I became me," said Ghomeshi, onetime president of the York Federation of Students. The decision to explore his diverse interests wasn’t always easy for him because he often "lamented" that he had so many interests and "wished I could narrow it down". Like many students, he had questions about where it was all leading and had "angst about the future".

It was his continued exploration of diverse interests after graduating from York in political science that led to his interesting career path. That has included: singer and songwriter for folk-rock group Moxy Früvous, writer for numerous publications including The Globe & Mail, national on-air personality on CBC Television and CBC Radio One and regular contributor on CBC Television’s "The Hour", where, he said, "I honed my interest in long-form interviewing." Asked about his career goal, Ghomeshi said, "I want to be the best interviewer this country’s ever known."

Having reflected on his own career journey, Ghomeshi gave students what he dubbed his "Four Pillars" for career success:

  • "Keep the big picture and don’t stress. It’s okay if you don’t know what you want to do with the rest of your life and freaking out about your future is futile and never goes away." He suggested students take the courses they like and start to make mental notes about what turns them on.
  • "You can construct the base, but you can’t be the architect." He advised students to create the conditions for where they want to head in life by concentrating on what they love and what interests them, but to remember that they can’t control the direction or path they’ll take. "That’s okay", he reassured them.
  • "You are your own brand." His experience interviewing people from all walks of life revealed to him that the people with successful careers are those who show an incredible range of interests and curiosities. "Diversity of who you are and what you’ve done is valued." he said. "You’re here [at York University] to become a more interesting human. If you embrace that, or see it as building part of your brand – it’s amazing!"
  • "Follow your passions." Don’t make career decisions based on what someone else told you is safe, advised Ghomeshi. "It’s not always easy but it’s worth it." When it comes to his own career decisions, he said, "the place I can be most confident is when I know I’m being true to myself."

Following his presentation, Ghomeshi stayed to meet with students and sign autographs. Students who attended viewed the presentation as very positive, according to anonymous evaluations they filled in after the event. Here are some of their comments:

"Very inspiring and motivating. I left with plans on how I was going to better myself, but not stress."

"I loved his talk. I find him to be a very authentic and inspiring person and I was very excited to see that he was coming to York for a talk. I hope that he is invited again next year since I found his speech and talk very helpful in terms of guiding me with my own career decisions."

"It was probably the most inspiring 1.5 – 2 hours of my entire life!"

Ghomeshi’s presentation launched the Career Conversations ’08-’09 Panel Series – a series of panels focusing on 12 industry sectors which will consist of professionals, many York alumni, who will provide students with insights and advice in their fields.