“People hire people. What you offer afterwards sustains you but it’s the connections that make a difference.”
This is just a sample of the valuable nuggets of advice shared by industry professionals at the second annual Career Gala at Trent University Durham on April 9. At the event, students learned the path to landing that coveted first job begins with a smile and a firm handshake.
Due to the popular demand of last year’s gala organized by the Trent Oshawa Psychology Association, this year’s event expanded to include students and associations from all disciplines at the Durham campus. They were invited to mix and mingle with professionals from a wide variety of desired fields ranging from accountants and project managers to crisis counsellors and police officers.
Fourth-year Psychology student Raheleh Saryazdi, president of TOPA, stresses the importance of one-on-one interaction between students and real-world professionals offered at the gala. “We really emphasize that this is not a fair, it’s a mingling event,” she said. “You get to ask your own questions on your own terms and they will answer what you want to know.”
Second-year Sociology student Jehnelle Steer appreciated the candid discussions she had with the invited professionals. “Since my major is so broad, the particular gala definitely helped me because I could potentially grow to be anyone of these people,” she said. “You can talk to them and find out how they got into their careers. It’s nice to know that they are just real people.”
The student-organized event served as a perfect vehicle for attendees to explore career pathways, inquire about internships or uncover new opportunities. They learned how to navigate from student to professional in a familiar environment supported by attending faculty, alumni and peers.
According to Trent University Durham academic advisor Craig Cameron, “Students are used to operating in a comfort zone. Here they can test the waters, shake a hand, and say hello to a stranger. It’s wonderful to see them build that skill set in their own school.”
Dr. Justin Jennings, curator, New World Archaeology at the Royal Ontario Museum was invited to the event by Trent University Durham professor Dr. Helen Haines. “ It’s good to get into a room with different professionals that are doing the things you might think about doing and to find out a little bit about their story,” revealed Dr. Jennings. “That’s something you don’t get in the classroom.”
History professor Dr. Jennine Hurl-Eamon also feels fostering a relationship between industry and student is crucial. “I think that’s part of our responsibility,” she said. “The current job market can seem very daunting so I think it’s important that we do everything that we can to show students that their degrees are applicable.”
The gala proved to be a truly communal event. Launched with the assistance of faculty, staff and fellow associations, TOPA added the art of networking to the long legacy of combined classroom knowledge and real-world experience found at Trent University Durham.