It was early in the day, and he was smartly dressed and had a welcoming smile, so I assumed he was a job counsellor or recruiter.
“Where are you from?” I asked, as I offered him an Opportunity For All Youth pin, expecting him to name one of the employers that were hiring in Ottawa that day.
“Saudi Arabia,” he said proudly.
I laughed. “No, I mean where are you from today,” I asked again, expecting him to name an organisation he was with.
But Mohammed wasn’t a job counsellor or employer, he was one of the hopeful young people looking for a position. He was at the event early because he was participating in the “executive roundtable”, a meeting ahead of the main hiring event where young job seekers get to sit down with business executives, and share their experiences of what it’s like to be a young job seeker in the current market.
Mohammed was an impressive candidate. In the executive roundtable, he shined. I was not surprised to see him a few hours later emerging from behind the black partition, having finished his interview, and putting on the iconic green apron: Starbucks had hired him on the spot.
Meeting Mohammed reminded me that we hold perceptions of young people that aren’t always accurate, and that when given the opportunity they can surprise us in wonderful ways.