12 Jul Lessons From The Alumni: In Conversation with Evan Metelski
This article is the first installment in an ongoing series, “Lessons From the Alumni.” Current or incoming students often wonder what they can do on campus to make the most of their time at Queen’s. There’s no one better to give advice than the alumni, who have lived through all of the successes and pitfalls of an undergraduate experience. No matter the program or discipline, any Queen’s student can learn from Evan Metelski, a Bachelor of Commerce, 2019 graduate. His lessons regarding leadership, involvement, and active listening would benefit any Queen’s student both on campus, and beyond. Read on for tips about navigating group work, tough conversations, how to meet new people, and finding a job after graduation.
Evan Metelski sits opposite me on a cushy lounge chair in his hometown of Stratford, Ontario. Five minutes ago, he greeted me with a confident smile and eyes that oozed with optimism and sophistication. I thanked him for meeting me and expressed my gratitude that he was willing to lend his thoughts for this article. “Of course!” he chirped back. “I’ll talk about Queen’s any day. It’s a special place.” From that moment onward, I knew it wasn’t only confidence and kindness that brewed behind his blonde-haired, blue-eyed facade– it was genuine pride to have been a Gael.
It’s been a full year since Metelski roamed Queen’s, graduating with an Honours Bachelor of Commerce in 2019. He misses seeing friends around campus, roaming the streets of Aberdeen on Homecoming, and eating at the plethora of restaurants Kingston has to offer, but if there’s one thing he misses most, it’s living with his friends in the heart of Kingston.
Metelski graduated with an Honours Bachelor of Commerce in 2019.
“I met my very best friends during my four years at Queen’s, and I know these friendships will last a lifetime,” Metelski explained. “If I had advice for current or incoming students it’s get involved from day one– you’ll meet so many wonderful people, and it helps determine your place outside of the classroom.”
Getting involved is something Metelski had little issue with. His resume boasts an abundance of clubs and committees, including co-chairing the Queen’s Conference on the Business Environment Today (QBET), directing the Commerce semi-formal, and acting as a co-chair for the Commerce High School Liaison Program, a role he cites as his favourite. He held this position in his third-year at Queen’s, which was particularly impressive as most students aren’t co-chairs until their fourth-year.
“I loved being part of so many clubs and societies because it helped me to develop essential skills for my personal and professional development,” said Metelski. “I learned how to be a leader, how to manage people, work as a team and manage projects– all of which have helped me succeed in my current job. Not only is being part of clubs fun and exciting, but it challenges you to learn various soft and hard skills.”
These experiences didn’t come without hardships. Metelski says co-chairing QBET was a challenging experience. At the time, he was on exchange in France, so, unable to schedule in-person meetings with colleagues, he faced the added challenge of organizing virtual meetings across a six hour time difference. Issues like acquiring and retaining sponsors, keeping within specified budgets, and overseeing 60-70 delegates were additional stressors Metelski endured.
“These issues were overwhelming at times, but my team and I made it work,” says Metelski. “That’s what you do when you care about something– be resilient, persevere, and do what needs to be done. It ended up being extremely rewarding and I felt accomplished at the end of the day… a feeling I hope current Queen’s students can also experience during their undergraduate.”
At Queen’s, another challenge Metelski overcame was navigating tough conversations. In the classroom, he often didn’t have a choice about who his group members were– a challenging situation as the commerce program generally revolves around group work. Metelski explained a particular situation where it was unclear who the “group leader” was, so he stepped into that role. As the leader, he enforced deadlines and tried to get other members to see the bigger picture of what they were trying to accomplish. He explained to me that although everyone had different ideas and standards about timelines and quality of work, he enforced discussion so the group ended up on the same page regarding goals and values. This act allowed the group to complete a high quality project on-time.
“I realized I had to learn to work with a variety of people with different personalities and ways of operating,” explains Metelski. “It was challenging to manage others’ perspectives while making progress in our work, but with time I learned to empathize with my group members to get the job done. Being understanding and empathetic are essential traits to master if you’re going to be successful at Queen’s.”
Presently, Metelski works as a District Sales Associate at Mackenzie Investments in Toronto– a career path that has always interested him. He is responsible for a variety of jobs ranging from project planning to event organization for his clients. Balancing a variety of tasks keeps Metelski on his toes, and he is constantly learning new things and meeting new people. The extracurriculars and academics in which Metelski was engaged at Queen’s help him at Mackenzie daily, where his experience in leadership, planning, time management, and active listening are essential for success.
“By being part of clubs, I had to balance not only my responsibilities for these activities, but school projects and my social life as well,” says Metelski. “It takes effort to learn how to time manage, but I’d say that’s a necessary skill anyone in any industry needs when entering the working world.”
In the summer before his fourth-year, Metelski interned at Mackenzie, an opportunity that secured him his full-time job. But he explains this is only one possible route students can take to land a job after graduation.
“Most programs have their own career resources and job boards,” says Metelski. “Yet, if you meet people and have fun, opportunities will present themselves, so keep your eyes open for those opportunities.”
Metelski currently works as a District Sales Associate at Mackenzie Investments in Toronto.
Entertainment aside, Metelski warns current students to err on the side of caution. He believes it’s easy to get lost in all of the fun activities available to you as a Queen’s student.
“Still hold yourself accountable for your learning and experience…discipline is important because there’s so many awesome things to do on campus and in the city of Kingston,” says Metelski. “Have fun, but don’t forget you have schoolwork to do,” he adds with a smirk.
Yet, what is most striking about Metelski is his passion and commitment to being a Queen’s alum. When asked what Queen’s meant to him, he quotes that Queen’s students uphold a standard of respect, willingness, and vulnerability– all skills he’s learned during his four years in Kingston.
There isn’t much Metelski would change if he could go back to 2015 and start his experience over again. Yet, something he would have done differently is join a varsity team (either cross-country or Nordic skiing).
“I initially decided not to pursue varsity athletics because I felt I needed to dedicate all my time and efforts to my academics given the expected increase in difficulty from high school to university,” explains Metelski. When his Queen’s experience was over, he realized that participating in high-performance athletics was a passion of his. Before Queen’s, Metelski was an avid runner and participated in a plethora of sports in high school. He believes it would have made him a more well-rounded person, and effectively a better student. This is due to the increased need to time manage and set strict deadlines all while balancing a heavy practice schedule.
“Every memory, good or bad, is what made my time at Queen’s so wonderful,” says Metelski with a smile. “There’s a special connection everyone who’s a Queen’s student innately understands. It’s hard to put this bond and connection into words…it’s just a feeling. Everyone who attends Queen’s is so tight-knit.”
This tight-knit community will need each other more than ever this year, with the rapidly changing educational landscape. Many Queen’s students find remote learning the new reality. In the face of this new normal, Metelski suggests researching clubs and opportunities online, and reaching out to club heads to express your interest. There are also many resources available for Queen’s students that are still accessible remotely (via email and phone), such as the Career Centre, ASUS and the various Student Wellness Services.
Towards the end of our conversation, Metelski ponders whether there was a singular lesson he’d like to impart to current or new students. Overall, he wants to stress the importance of being open minded and trying something new.
“Don’t let your nerves or uncertainties stop you from meeting people and following your passions. Embrace change, make the most of your opportunities, and buckle up for an exciting experience,” he says.
“Also, get house hunting early on in the year, you won’t regret it,” laughs Metelski. “And get to Stages early…those bar lines can get ridiculous.”
One of Metelski’s favourite memories was living near campus with his lifelong friends.
“Lessons from the Alumni,” will be an ongoing feature where Queen’s alum discuss the nostalgia of their student days, how Queen’s prepared them for the working world, advice for new and current students, and what they wish they knew during their time on campus.
Julia Ranney is the Lifestyle Print Editor for MUSE.