Queen's University

Exploring paths to happy careers – and lives

[photo of Scott Malcolm]

Sometimes the road of life can be mapped out for you by others. Sometimes, it’s up to you to do the mapping. In the case of Scott Malcolm, Artsci’03, the challenge of figuring out his own path by helping others choose theirs has given him the most satisfaction.

After finishing a degree in Film and Economics, Malcolm wanted to fulfill his initial dream of corporate marketing. However, after stints at companies like Proctor and Gamble, Virgin Mobile and Research in Motion, along with the trappings of success -- company cars and a big salary -- Malcolm decided to take a step back. Or, as he says, “start wandering the desert” via books, conversations with people and courses to figure out what vocation would give his life more meaning.

Where that took him was to the Redwood Project, a program he created for high school and university students grappling with career choices. Not only did he feel young people were suffering from a serious deficit of self-confidence and self-esteem, but that sentiment was confirmed by a human resources manager at a major bank who complained her biggest issue was dealing with miserable people.

So Malcolm started his project, running sessions with groups of 15-20 students working together as well as one-on-one with a facilitator. The sessions commence with a weekend known as an ‘elements retreat.’ As Malcolm explains, “We take a snapshot of who you are right now, honour and celebrate it by looking at your accomplishments and relationships, and then help you become who you really are or can be. It’s not about ‘fixing’ people; it’s about finding what really makes them shine.”

He says young people have been responding to it very positively. “I’m working with kids who are happy, expressive and excited.” The victories might not be exactly what you would expect, but if you’re a parent of one of these young people, you know they’re gigantic. Malcolm remembers one boy concluding on his own that he needed to stop playing video games so he could start living a more valuable life. “Up until then he’d been getting pleasure out of the junk food of life with no substance.”

In fact, says Malcolm, his program is much more than career counseling; it’s e about life counseling. “It’s really about having a really successful life, but by success I mean finding a place where you are truly happy.”

And helping others find that place in their lives is what has given Malcolm that kind of success in his own life – the kind measured in terms of true happiness.

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2010-10-28
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