“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is a line I hear often. While I’d like to believe that hard-work and talent outweigh the privilege of having well-connected parents, it remains true that knowing more people opens the door to more opportunities. Luckily, events like those hosted by Backpack to Briefcase (b2B) reduce the divide between people who have an extensive family network and those who don’t. Last week, I attended b2B’s Industry Night for careers in Government, Public Policy, Not-for-Profit, and Social Justice. The event featured over fifty U of T alumni, and provided current U of T students, from undergraduates to Ph.D. candidates, the opportunity to learn more about life post-graduation.
The structure of b2B Industry Night helped reduce my anxieties toward approaching professionals. As I discussed in a previous post, despite being an extrovert, I find networking events difficult. However, Industry Night was less intimidating than other networking events because of the common knowledge that all the attendees have a desire to help out students. The fact that all the event is constituted of U of T alumni helped facilitate conversation and resulted in helpful, U of T specific advice. For instance, I was happy hear that U of T degrees are well-regarded abroad!
One of my favourite parts of the evening was talking to women about their experiences with sexism in their careers. I found it reassuring to hear a former Canadian government employee say that she hasn’t experienced harassment in her job. In contrast, a woman I talked to who worked for a major international organization discussed facing rampant sexism and harassment. I was inspired to hear that as she’s progressed in her career, she has become less hesitant to call attention to condescension and unfair treatment. Hearing these perspectives provided insight into how women can cope with sexism in the workplace.
The Industry Night was also a great place to meet students at other levels of study. While we all attend the same school, it’s rare to meet masters and Ph.D. students outside of tutorial! I enjoyed learning about the careers of these students, including one who works for a non-profit, and another who works at a Toronto orphanage. One of the most surprising elements of the event was that there were few fellow second-year students. I primarily encountered upper-years and recent-grads. I definitely recommend taking advantage of b2B events to students at all levels of study. The networking reception taught me more about different career paths and the unique ways alumni have applied the skills from their degree. While most fellow undergrads are probably focusing on midterms and essays right now, it’s never too early to start learning more about post-graduation career options!