My experience networking is far from extensive, unless cultivating a digital resumé on Linkedin counts. So, I decided to attend a Career Exploration & Education workshop called Networking Made Easy to give me a taste of networking is about, beyond the anecdotes of my business-savvy Rotman friends.
The workshop I attended was one component of the Backpack to Briefcase (b2B) program, which connects U of T students to alumni in their field. b2B’s events range from seminars like the one I attended to mentorship meals, speed networking events, and industry nights (all of which I hope to attend in the future!). The program piqued my interest because it gives you a chance to learn more about potential career paths, and build relationships with mentors. If this isn’t incentive in itself, b2B also offers CCR credit to participants!
The workshop answered many questions on my mind. One of these was “what could a student like me possibly have to offer to professionals?” In response, the workshop facilitator told me that many people appreciate the opportunity to give back, and don’t see students as a time drain- after all, they were once in our position. We were told to consider “What is most meaningful about your academic, personal, and/or professional experience(s) that you can share with others? Thinking this way helped make the idea of talking to professionals a bit easier.
While the workshop couldn’t have prepared me better, I soon found that the act of networking is a lot harder than learning about it. It was hard to put everything I learned to practice! This Tuesday, I attended an event at the Canadian Club of Toronto, where David MacNaughton, Canada’s Ambassador to the United States, gave a talk about Canada-US relations. I got to attend due to my participation in the PCJ program with the Munk School of Global Affairs. The atmosphere was intimidating, and I wasn’t sure what I had in common with older men with developed careers. But after mustering up a bit of confidence, I had time to apply what I learned.
While I didn’t “work the room” as well as I could’ve, there are thankfully plenty of b2B-affiliated networking events coming up soon. If you’re interested in making connections to U of T alumni, or learning more about career development, make sure to check out the Career Centre’s opportunities. One particularly exciting one is U of T’s hub on Ten Thousand Coffees, which gives students the chance to arrange a coffee chat with alumni in their field.
While I’m still blundering my way through the foreign and ambiguous world of networking, I hope that by the time I’ve been to all the b2B events on my calendar, the whole thing will be a lot less intimidating!