Millennial Stories | Jay Park | 23 Year old U of T Engineering Graduate

Standing there, looking down over the balcony on the 11th floor. A whole assortment of thoughts  running through my mind. Confusion. Lost. “You’re not capable. All of these other people succeeding around you and what are you doing?” Should I jump?  I didn’t jump.

The Beginning:

I was born in Korea, my parents moved to Canada to provide a better life for my siblings and I. My parents were really strict when I was little. I felt really uncomfortable, I couldn’t speak English, and people made fun of what I ate. I had to overcome these barriers, and eventually things started to get a bit better. Once high school came, people always told me I was smart, and I had the mindset that I was entitled to success and that everything was going to be given to me.

1st Year:

Once I entered into University it was a completely different beast. The peers surrounding me were super wealthy and extremely intelligent. I met a bunch of new people with different types of personalities. The mindset was that I had to adapt to this new environment or I was going to get left behind. I tried to change my identity to fit in. I slowly realized I was unhappy, didn’t have my own identity due to trying to fit in. I didn’t know what to do.

Back in high school I was always helping people out, and teaching people concepts. In University I was the one that was lost and needed to seek help from peers to understand concepts. I was struggling.

Miller Group Interview:

So my friend managed to get me an interview at this company called Miller Group during First Year. My 2 other friends also got an interview. So we all did the interview. It was my first interview and I really didn’t know what to expect. The worst was when we all kind of met up, and my 2 buddies said they got the job, and then they asked me when I was starting. Assuming that I had got the job too.

I didn’t get a call back, so I had tell them I didn’t get it. That was really hard. My friends are all excited to start their summer co-op and I have no sort of direction at that point in time.

I realized there was a big difference between the really talented people who got summer co-ops, and the people who didn’t get it. I felt a tremendous divide.

This was one of my first failures and the pressure started to build up.

2nd Year Summer:

Then second year came. School got even harder, but I made it through.

A bunch of my friends got summer co-ops for second year through connections or being super smart. Three of my closest friends got jobs and they were also a lot smarter than me. The pressure was mounting. At the time the only thing I could get was a warehouse job. It was a general shipping labour type of job.

I was embarrassed.

My friends are suiting up and I was getting paid minimum wage. At the time I was very narrow minded. I quit after a week or two because I got an interview with this business company. So I thought, okay maybe things aren’t as bad as they seem. I was expecting a consulting related job. But it turned out to be a sales job, standing on the street. Now there’s nothing wrong with those jobs, it just wasn’t what I wanted to do.

I became depressed.

I thought I was improving, and on the path to success, but instead I went to a crappier job. At that junction in my life I was very confused, and truly started to worry if everything was going to be alright. I quit after 1 day. I didn’t feel like I had the necessary support at the time. I was busting my ass through school, my parents are paying for my extremely expensive tuition. All for what? Me standing on the streets trying to sell some sort of sketchy service.

I contacted a construction agency shortly after. I got a job as a construction labourer on residential houses. I worked that for about 2 months to finish off the summer, and that’s where I found a passion for construction. I thought maybe this would help me land a job later on in construction as an Engineer. End of summer, still lost and confused.

3rd Year:

Going into Third year the emphasis was on co-op. At U of T we had a co-op program. During the search process I applied for 25 positions.

I got 0 interviews.

I started to have those feelings of doubt again. All my friends were getting interviews, with no experience, but they had the personality and the ability to connect with interviewers. I started to become convinced that maybe I was incapable of meeting all these expectations. All the accumulation of failure leading up to this moment was when I began having small thoughts of jumping off my 11th floor balcony. I never thought I would do it, but every time I stood out there, leaning over those railings these thoughts started to become more and more realistic. I was embarrassed to tell my girlfriend at the time or anyone else around me. I especially didn’t want to tell my parents how I was feeling and put that burden on them. I felt more alone than ever. I thought about going back to the warehouse and not living up to expectations once again.

That’s when the suicidal thoughts began. A very dark time in my life, but what could I do. I could make the decision to give up or keep fighting, keep trying. I fought internally. I could whine and complain but that wasn’t going to help. I decided to give it my best one more time. I revamped my resume numerous times, and did many prep interviews with a U of T Engineering student service. They said to change my entire resume and instead of being stubborn, I had to accept the criticism. I applied to 12 more positions. I got an interview (my 1st after a total of around 40 applications). I blew it. I got 2 more, and despite failing my first one, I began to see progress again. I heard back from one of the companies, GeoSolv Design/Build Inc.

A job! The construction job from my second year summer helped me land this job, as they saw that I had experience within the field. For the first time in a long time I felt proud. However I wasn’t satisfied, other people were still getting better jobs than me, I had to catch up. I still didn’t tell a lot of people, partly because it was a small company. But being at a small company I had more responsibilities, was more involved in meeting. I was consulting, doing quality control, designs, and then taking these designs into the field. Other people were at these big firms but weren’t exposed to this. I felt pride but there was still work left to be done.

At that time my friend Alula (1st story on Millennial Stories) also recommended to me a book called How To Win Friends and Influence People. It helped me develop more social skills and I really learned more about myself as a person.

4th Year:

So Fourth Year begins. All the pressure to find a job post-grad is burdening me.

I went to a career fair, it was my first time networking for a job. I was all suited up and felt good about myself. I researched companies, I made cover letters, at the time not a lot of people were doing cover letters. I applied to 24 companies, and I got an interview with 7. What a difference from when I applied to 25 positions in Third year and got 0 interviews.

I was finally living up to the expectations that I set for myself and the people around me expected.

I got 3 offers, and 2 offers that were from major companies. I chose construction over design, but it was a tough decision.

I landed a full time construction job. This entire thing was a process, all the small steps I took led me to this point. From the first interview that I failed in first year, to working odd jobs in second year summer, to the co-op in third year. This all helped me grow as an individual to land a post-grad job. I was finally happy and felt in control.

Plans for the future:

I have more clarity in my life in what I want to do now. I want to eventually become a Project Site Supervisor, and work up to a Project Manger position. But you never know for sure, I’m keeping all my options open. My advice is just to keep working hard.

Thanks again Jay for doing this interview, like always if you have any questions feel free to reach out to me and I will message Jay for you.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Millennial Stories.