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The Uncomfort Zone: Millennials’ Best Lessons Come from Taking Risks

A generation that has been accused of being raised on praise, awash in trophies, and sheltered from life’s bumps and bruises may lag in developing a taste for risk. But according to a group of Boston-area millennial generation college students, the lessons that stick are often found along an untried path.

Stretch early and often.

“The ‘best’ experiences happen when I put myself in an uncomfortable position, whether joining a conversation with people I don’t know or doing something that requires public speaking,” says Bentley University’s Sophia Sirage. “I’m a strong believer that you have to get through being uncomfortable to be comfortable.”

Interviewing for admission to medical school tested Sara Khosrowjerdi from Tufts University. “I was pretty much a mental wreck, but the interviews brought out qualities I didn’t know I had,” says the pre-med major. “Once they were over I felt like I could take on the world.”

Bridget LeMon from Bentley took on the role of mentor: “As an Orientation leader, I made so many new friends, both with incoming freshmen and my peers. I love that I’m still in touch with my orientation students and they feel comfortable coming to me with questions.”

Know when to retire a dream.  

Civic-minded Bentley Marketing major Brian Shea ’14 was fixed on working in cause branding, where companies partner with nonprofits to advance the social good. Then came his internship at a Boston-area communication firm.

“I realized that many of the efforts were simply for publicity; the companies involved didn’t truly want to make a difference. That was a turnoff and shifted my focus to other career paths.”

Reach out and do some good. 

Andrew Johnston, also from Bentley, interned in finance and development at Camp Sunshine, which provides respite for children with rare and life-threatening diseases. “It showed me that you can truly enjoy what you do if you’re passionate about [the cause],” he says. In a world of opportunity, “You need to seek out the experiences and career that give you the most fulfillment.”

Service–learning was “without question, the most rewarding experience of my college career,” says Shea, who developed a leadership program for middle-school students and an anti-bullying program, among many other commitments. The work provided “a tremendous number of opportunities to further my development as a student, as a professional, and as a person.” 

Dare to take a timeout.  

A Spanish course was an academic highlight for LeMon. “It allowed me to take a break from the business curriculum and focus on a subject I loved so much in high school; it brought back fun, positive memories.”

Khosrowjerdi turns to Netflix. “Television helps me keep my sanity. It’s the perfect study break and lazy-day companion.”

Open up to inspiration.

Whether your tastes run to page or screen, tap a steady supply of mind-expanding ideas and concepts. Our panel recommends:

Abundance by Peter Diamandis, which explores the possibility of abundance in a world where we are reaching carrying capacity. It also identifies fields with extreme potential over the next 10 years, which interests me as an aspiring entrepreneur. [Sophia Sirage]

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, which we read for Freshman Seminar, opened my eyes to how fortunate I am. It proved the importance of living in the moment. [Bridget LeMon]

Soulpancake.com is a must for college students. It’s a social-media intensive organization that tries to spread positive messages. Kid President videos are my favorite. [Andrew Johnston]

Huffingtonpost.com/impact features stories that traditional press doesn’t cover, lets me know what’s going on the “civic engagement” space, and has some great human-interest stories. [Brian Shea]

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