Tag Archives: Networking

SFU Human Resources Students’ Association Spring Soirée: March 25th

On March 25, 2013 the Simon Fraser University Human Resources Students’ Association (SFU HRSA) is hosting their annual networking event  – the Spring Soirée – at the Westin Grand Hotel on Robson Street.

SFU Human Resources Students’ Association Executive

SFU Human Resources Students’ Association Executive

The intention is to create a comfortable atmosphere for students to connect with industry professionals. It’s an excellent opportunity for students to meet people they hope to be working alongside in the future, while learning to market their skills in a setting outside of the classroom.  This unique event benefits the Multiple Sclerosis Society through ticket sales, a 50/50 draw, and a silent auction.

For people working in HR, or looking to recruit fresh HR professionals, the event is an ideal opportunity to meet the next batch of SFU grads before being inundated with their resumes at the end of the school year.

Mike Wong and Jocelyn Tang

Mike Wong and Jocelyn Tang

I connected with Jocelyn Tang, the Sponsorship Acquisitions’ Coordinator at the SFU HRSA at a BC HRMA event, and she was happy to respond to the following questions:

1. What is your role at the SFU Human Resources Students’ Association?

I am the Sponsorship Acquisitions’ Coordinator and I work closely with the Project Manager and the Logistics Coordinator for the Spring Soirée.

A part of my role is to seek monetary and in-kind supporters for our event, but I also take part in promotions and liaise with keynote speakers.

2. Can you give me a bit of background about the Spring Soirée? How long has the SFU HRSA been hosting this event?

The Spring Soirée is the SFU Human Resources Students’ Association’s annual networking event. This is the second year that we are hosting the event. This year we would like to focus on Health & Wellness, with keynote speakers from Lululemon and Coast Capital discussing how they integrate Health & Wellness into their corporate offices. We are inviting Human Resources Management students, as well as industry professionals to network at the Spring Soirée. In addition, we are proud to be benefiting the Multiple Sclerosis Society, with proceeds from our silent auction and 50/50 raffle draw to help fund research and support for those affected by this debilitating disease.

3. Does the Spring Soirée draw a large, diverse crowd?

While the event targets HR focused students and professionals, the crowd will come from various areas in HR. We see that HR is crucial in not just recruitment, but benefits, corporate culture, and employee engagement as well. The purpose of the event is for students and professionals to come together and exchange information in this increasingly diverse department of the company.

4. What are students hoping to gain from the evening?

Through this event, we would like to provide the opportunity for students with a passion in Human Resources Management to meet with HR professionals and gain insight into a career in HR. We encourage students to spark conversations and build warm networking connections with these professionals, to learn about the nuts and bolts of working in the industry that the students are still very unfamiliar with.

5. Why would it be beneficial for someone who works full-time to attend?

This is a great opportunity for organizations to promote their company or organization to a receptive environment of students and industry professionals, interact with the brightest up-and-coming Human Resources students, and exchange information on the latest trends and news in the Human Resource industry.

For more information, you can contact Jocelyn Tang at jocelyn_tang@sfu.ca

It’s easy to forget what it was like to balance full-time school (classes and homework) with part-time work.  Even more so, consider attempting to maintain a healthy social life, family time and periods of rest. It doesn’t take much time in the full-time workforce to be grateful that your school days are behind you.

So kudos must be given when students make a point to expand their experience outside the classroom to become better prepared for full-time working life. Consider at the very least how much you enjoy networking – as a working person – and imagine how that fear is multiplied for students who most likely have limited direct working experience in their field.

Take the time to meet and support these ambitious SFU students on Monday March 25th at their annual Spring Soirée.  Building your career all starts with having the right conversation with the right person.  Who knows what kind of impact you may have on one of these optimistic students.

“Understand that Work is Only a Small Part of Your Life”

I was in Winnipeg visiting my best friend in December when we met the loveliest couple over brunch. Both being from Vancouver, we took the advice of a friend to visit a property called The Gates on Roblin. Less than 30 minutes out of the city, we three girls found ourselves in a cozy yet massive country home which had been converted into a large restaurant and event space.

Pat and HarvWe arrived in the late afternoon, and stayed for a few hours catching up on every little thing. The third girl in our group smiled at a couple sitting at a table not so far from ours, and complimented the woman’s beauty. The woman responded kindly and explained that they were celebrating her husband’s birthday. Not soon after, we exchanged a laugh, and offered to take a picture of the happy couple.

That’s how we met Pat & Harv.

Pat explained to us that seeing us three girls laughing and enjoying ourselves reminded her of so many memories she experienced in exactly the room we were in, but at different tables. Pat & Harv had celebrated a number of events with friends and family over the years on the estate, and the three of us reminded her of just how precious those times had been for her. She reminded us to continue to enjoy ourselves, and appreciate our time with each other. I was moved beyond words.

I thought it relevant to share this story because – like so many of you, I’m sure – I tend to get swept up in work. I allow myself to focus so much on career strategies that unless I’ve scheduled time to rest, I don’t tend to do so.

Pat & Harv’s genuine kindness moved me from the time we met, and we should all take Pat’s words to heart:

“understand that work is only a small part of your life. There will always be another job, but not always an opportunity for good health and a happy family life.”

Being kind and genuine people, you’ll understand why I felt moved to stay connected with Pat and Harv, and asked them to answer some questions that I’ll share (these responses have not been shortened, allowing you to hear their voices directly rather than mine):

1. Can you tell me a bit about your careers? Where has your working life lead you?

Both Harv & I worked in a variety of areas to gain the money for post-secondary education and gain much coveted “work” experience. Harv started work in his father’s grocery store at about 14 and stayed for several years. Then he moved on to be an evening custodian and elevator operator at Eatons, a ladies shoe salesman at Eatons and Sears, and a labourer in a variety of manufacturing industries.

After obtaining his BA he set out to Montreal to find fame and fortune as an office clerk/management trainee. This soured quickly because although he could speak some French he was not fully bilingual, nor was the position an actual springboard for management level.

He soon returned to Winnipeg and worked as an accounting clerk while taking CA courses in the evening. However, accounting was not his forte. Undaunted, he returned to university to complete the first post-degree social work program offered at the University of Manitoba. This was definitely more in line with his interest and abilities.

Upon graduation he accepted an all-encompassing position as an intake/welfare/family services social worker in Northern Saskatchewan for a year to gain the necessary practical experience and then obtained a full time permanent position with Children’s Aid in Winnipeg. He worked for them for almost 38 years, transitioning into a provincial Child Protection case manager with the Province of Manitoba. He retired at 63, after almost 39 years in his field.

After 2 years of “retirement”, Harv now works part time as a retail associate in menswear, still using his assessment and people skills, although in a very different setting. He regularly journals his sales experiences and dreams about someday publishing his experiences under the title “Memoirs of a Menswear Sales Associate: From Social Services to Mens Suits”.

Pat worked part time in sales, and in offices to gain the finances in which to further her education. A BA was the springboard to continuing education, including a BScHEc from the University of Alberta which brought her first professional designation. After graduating as a Home Economist she worked in retail as a Store Manager, obtaining recognition for greatest increase in sales, accurate inventories, stable workforce and her artistic displays.

From there she transitioned into another passion, that of social services, and working as an employment trainer/counselor, working in a group for several years. During this time she returned to university at night, taking courses in workplace safety which would eventually be used as credit towards certificates in adult education and human resource management.

After a few years working in low paying, but socially rewarding social service areas, Pat took a risk to leave her city life behind and accepted a professional position as a Regional Resource Developer for the Home Care Program, based in the northern community of The Pas, Manitoba. It was one of the best decisions (and greatest professional experiences) of her life! She completed her Certificate in Adult Education to hone her skills as a trainer/facilitator/developer, furthered by a Certificate in Human Resource Management, obtaining the national CPP designation.

This combination of education and demonstrated skills gave her the confidence to successfully apply for a similar position in Southern Manitoba, where she stayed until her position was deleted just prior to her retirement. Once again though, at a much older age, she was face to face with another career change. After a few false starts and much introspection, she chose to leave the health care field, and to follow another passion. Pat worked part time in garden centers during this time, while once again continuing her formal education.

Pat now works part time in sales for a national design company and as an EAL instructor for the Immigrant Centre in Winnipeg.

Life is good!

2. What is your philosophy of work?

Both of us believe that it is very important to follow your passions and to keep your options open.

3. What is it that you love most about the work that you do?

Both of us have had opportunity to work in areas we believe in, and in which we have made some difference in the lives of others. Resonates with our values and ethics.

4. At some point, you’re going to retire. Can you tell me what you’re most looking forward to?

Both of us have “retired” and have chosen to return to work because of the current economic situation. We enjoy working part time in positions with less responsibility and less stress, which give us the opportunity to pay off our debts so that we can make our retirement dreams a reality.

5. What advice do you have for people who are at the beginning of their careers?

*Know yourself.

*Follow your passions.

*Take risks.

*Pay attention to your “gut” and your intuition.

*RUN from positions where the expectations and responsibilities are not clearly defined. At first blush this may be enticing for those of us who like the freedom to create, however in reality these opportunities often reflect corporate chaos

*Remember that while most people are relatively “good”, many lack ethics. You WILL be surprised, and often disappointed, by others.

*Keep your options open through networking, continuing your education, and developing an unquestionable reputation.

*Keep your own counsel.

*Speak carefully. Not everyone actually wants your opinion, even though they say they do.

*Become an expert on non-verbal communication and pay attention to body language.

*Be aware that you are always replaceable.

*And, most importantly, understand that work is only a small part of your life. There will always be another job, but not always an opportunity for good health and a happy family life.

Cold Calls: Why Are They So Scary?

cold calling reward outweighs the costSo I’ve often found that when talking about cold calling with friends, colleagues and even people I’ve met for the first time, I see similar reactions. People cringe. They tense up. They mostly agree that it is not pleasant idea.

So why do people do it? Because it is often an untapped form of networking. You can make connections with people you probably would not cross paths with in your regular day and find out about a professional field you are interested in firsthand.

But why is it so scary? Simply put it is hard for people to put themselves out there, get out of their comfort zone and try something different. I would argue that, while there is reason to get uncomfortable with the idea of picking up a phone and calling a stranger, the reward far outweighs the cost. We need to realize that the benefit of reaching out and creating another professional contact is worth the discomfort.

I remember being really interested in international relations as an undergraduate, but I wanted to know more. So after consulting a former colleague of mine in government I looked up some names at the Department of Foreign Affairs, did a little research and called some individuals who were working in areas I was interested in. It was refreshing to talk to real life people and not just rely on books or the internet. I do need to say that some people did decline to speak to me or meet for a coffee but there were a handful that were very amenable to talking with me and sharing their career paths and experiences.

I deeply valued the opportunity to hear from people about the challenges and triumphs in their field. It gave me a really clear picture of what a job in that sector could look like. And it helped me assess if I wanted to pursue a job in that field.

Overall, I strongly believe that cold calling someone is an important opportunity to find out more about a particular field and job. I would encourage those of you reading to take a chance, pick up the phone, because you never know who you might reach on the other end.

Happy calling!

Relax, it’s Just a Networking Event!

This is my final post on the topic of networking this week.  I really hope that my message is clear: networking seems intimidating, but it begins with a conversation, and that’s really all it is.  So just get out there!

A few things to keep in mind about Networking Events:

1. Just say hello!

When you arrive at your first networking event, you’ll do whatever feels right: you’ll check your coat, you’ll grab a drink, and you’ll stand awkwardly trying to decide what to do with yourself.  Instead, once you’ve checked your coat and grabbed a drink (alcoholic or not, because you know you`ll be doing a lot of talking), make your way into the room.  Once you catch someone’s gaze, just walk up to them and say ‘hello, I’m ____.’  It’s as easy as that, I promise!

Next thing you know, you’ll see the same look of relief in your new contact’s eyes that mirror your own.  You decided to show up because you want to make new contacts.  Well surprise, so has everyone else!  So don’t let these like-minded networkers intimidate you.

2. Bring business cards, but don’t hand them out like candy on Halloween

Networking is about building relationships.  Having said that, how many relationships have you begun by handing out a card?  You bring business cards so that your contacts can communicate with you after you part ways.  They’re a medium for conversation, not the conversation themselves.  So bring business cards, but only really expect to hand out five at the most.

I have a horrible memory, but I’m a writer, and a visual learner.  So a trick I have to remember the people I meet is to write notes on the business cards they give me.  That way I can relay some topic that we discussed at our next meeting.

3. Connect with your new contacts within 24 hours

I know I`m not alone when I say I have a horrible memory.  When you have conversations with ten different people in an evening, and then seemingly-random people contact you via email the next day, it`s hard to connect email addresses and names to faces.  So be courteous to your new contacts and send them an email, give them a call, or add them on LinkedIn within 24 hours of meeting them.

I`ve read a number of books about networking over the years, and a common theme nowadays is that lots of people despise networking events.  Why?  Because they feel pressured to meet each person in attendance, and because networking events just feel fake and forced.  But these feelings are unfounded.

You don’t HAVE to meet every person in the room to have a meaningful evening.  In fact, your conversations will be more meaningful if you spend your time with fewer people.  To the issue of feeling fake and forced, as if networking is a shallow practice, remember that it’s an exercise in communication.  So the value of your networking experience will be equal to the exercise of your communication skills.

Networking events may not be for you.  You may prefer scheduling informational interviews, or simply coffee/lunch meetings.  Just remember that networking is about building relationships one conversation at a time, and you’ll be fine.

Informational Interviews

A challenge that people have when they decide to start networking is deciding what to do first.  How do you start?  Scheduling Informational Interviews with people is a great way to start networking because there’s no ambiguity.  It’s an opportunity for you to meet someone in a position that you admire, or who works at an organization that interests you.  Either way, you know that you`ve come with the intention of learning about your new contact, and the person sitting across from you understands that intention.

An Informational Interview is really just a conversation.  It’s your opportunity to speak with someone about their career, and their place of work.  Having said that, an Informational Interview is an amazing opportunity to learn about a company you idealize, and get an idea of whether your values coincide with the corporate culture just by speaking with someone who actually works in your area of interest.

Important things to remember for an Informational Interview:

  1. Arrive on time, and be prepared for a conversation.  Learn what you can about the person you’re coming to meet, the industry they’re in, and prepare three questions so that you can direct the conversation.
  2. Be respectful of the other person’s time.  Remember that this person is doing you a favour, so be conscious of time, and focus on what he/she has to say.
  3. Realize that you’re not there to ask for a job; you’re there to learn about the other person.  You wouldn’t propose marriage to someone on a first date, so why would you beg to work at a contact’s firm just after you’ve met?

The concept of networking can be intimidating because you’re putting yourself out there, and saying ‘I don’t know many people, who wants to get to know me?’  The best advice I’ve ever heard regarding networking is to realize that every person who says yes to meeting you, responds to your ‘hello’ at a networking event, or sends you a follow-up email is also looking to network.  So realize that your efforts are not strange at all!  Networking is simply a learned skill.

So start with an Informational Interview, especially if you feel more comfortable planning to meet someone rather than meeting a random person at a networking event.  Look through your groups on LinkedIn, and see who’s local.  Take a peek at the names of people who went to your university who you never met.  You never know where a connection will lead you in the future, and how you can impact that individual’s career path.  Good luck!

This Year, Just Start Networking!

Starting today, I’ll be posting a 3-part series on networking. 

I hear it time and again from colleagues: ‘I need a new job!  I know I should start networking, but I really don’t know how.’  My simplest most direct response is, just get out there!

People put too much pressure on themselves, and anything related to one’s career too often incites panic.  But networking truly is not a big deal.  Let this be your year to get out there and prove to yourself that you can do this!

Three things to remember when it comes to networking:

1. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself

When people start networking, they think that the state of their career will change at the blink of an eye; after that first cappuccino.  And while that can happen, it’s not very likely to happen for most.  Consider how many people marry the first person they date.

Networking is about building relationships with people, and sharing connections, so it takes time.  Don’t expect to run out there, meet a handful of people and have a career change at the end of five days.  Relax and learn something from these people.  Learn about who they are, what they do, and how they got there.

2. The best time to network is when you’re not looking for work

I mention this because many colleagues also say ‘I’ll start networking when I really can’t stand my job, and need a new one.’  But really, if you’re not looking for work, you’re in the best position to make genuine connections with people.

Remember the dating analogy: you can smell the desperation at any bar around 1am, and you can definitely feel the discomfort in the air when the person looking across from you only wants to know if you can help them find a job.  If you’re feeling desperate, or down on your luck at work, you’re not likely going to make the best impression.  So if you’ve been thinking about networking, and you’re not actually ready to leave your job, know that from an emotional standpoint, you’re in the best position to make connections with people that can change your life in the future.

3. Set a simple goal, and get out there!

When I first began networking, my goal was to meet one new person every week.  After two months, I truly had met eight contacts, and I genuinely still keep in touch with some of them.  It’s true, none of these individuals handed me jobs at the end of the day, but they taught me more about life and professional development than I could have expected.

Networking teaches you how to be assertive, how to be a good listener, and how to appreciate the time people are willing to spend with you, sharing their knowledge.  So decide on a goal, and go for it.  If you set a goal to meet one new contact each month, at the end of the year, you’ll have 12 new contacts.