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New Ivey initiative facilitates student networking opportunities

  • Communications
  • |
  • Dec 9, 2021
New Ivey initiative facilitates student networking opportunities

L-r: Joshua Kabu-Asante, Valeria Widjaja, Marco Chan, and Ilia Khairetdinov.

HBA student Valeria Widjaja knew she wanted a career involving social impact and sustainability work, but with myriad paths to consider, she was at a crossroads.

“Sustainability encompasses so many different industries, roles, and jobs – I didn’t know where to start. I had so many questions: Where do I look? What do I look for? Who can I talk to?,” she said. “The seemingly infinite tabs of articles, blog posts, and LinkedIn profiles only left me feeling overwhelmed without much knowledge gained.”

Fortunately, Widjaja, an HBA ’22 candidate, gained the perspective she needed through the Ivey Career Connections Program, which launched last summer as a pilot project. The program pairs current Ivey students with industry professionals, corporate partners, and alumni so students can research and explore industries, functions, and geographic areas of interest while building their professional network. Once matched, the students and professionals schedule a 45-minute career conversation, either in person or virtually. More than 200 Ivey alumni participated in the pilot and there were approximately 700 career conversations scheduled. Given the past success, the Ivey Career Management team is currently seeking professionals to participate in the program and both alumni and non-alumni are encouraged to participate. The Career Management team aims to relaunch the Career Connections Program to HBA, MSc, and MBA students beginning in mid-January.

The power of the Ivey network

Joshua Kabu-Asante, MSc ’19, an E-Commerce Associate at Mondelēz International Toronto, participated in the pilot because he wanted to give back to the Ivey community. He said he wouldn’t be where he is today without help from some people he met through Ivey and it’s important to develop such connections early in your career.

“No matter where you are in life, you never know when a connection or relationship you’ve formed will come in handy,” he said. “You may not see the immediate payoff, but the value in forming these relationships will undoubtedly yield in the future.”

Ilia Khairetdinov, HBA ’17, a Growth Specialist with ConnectAd Inc., also remembers receiving support as a student so he participated in Ivey Career Connections to pay it forward.

“For me, Ivey has always been about supporting the people around you and helping the next person in line. When I was at Ivey, people never hesitated to lend me a hand, whether through providing advice, mock interviews, or case prep,” he said. “Part of what makes Ivey incredible is its deep network and engaged alumni.”

Pandemic is changing the career landscape

Khairetdinov said the program is even more important in light of the fact that many people are working and connecting remotely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It didn’t quite hit me until I started talking to students that were likely not going to meet someone in person for a while and I realized that the whole networking and job application situation had drastically changed,” he said. “It’s much harder to make genuine connections or to do behavioural and technical interviews when you are behind a screen and can’t ooze your personality like you would before COVID-19.”

Equal access to career advice

The program appealed to Marco Chan, HBA ’15, Product Operations Lead at Shopify, because it gives all students equal access to opportunities, regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds. While participating in the program, he asked to only be matched with students who were receiving financial assistance through the Ontario Student Assistance Program.

“In my experience, there are unique challenges in recruiting for jobs for individuals coming from a lower- to middle-class background and I wanted to do what I could to help these individuals specifically early on in their careers. It was rewarding to speak with students that came from a similar socioeconomic background to me and provide them with the career advice that I wish I had gotten when I was in school,” he said. “These relationships are important because not everyone has the same access to opportunities. Programs like this are able to connect someone who may not be able to get the same candid advice afforded to individuals coming into Ivey with an existing network.”

In addition to career guidance, Widjaja said she received valuable life advice and was inspired by stories about embracing ambiguity or uncertainty.

“I received practical guidance as I continued to explore different industries, but months later, I find the insights on life resonated most with me because of the applicability beyond the career context,” she said. “I don’t know a better word to describe my conversations than ‘nourishing.’ I am so grateful to the people I met and I hope to pay the same kindness forward to future Ivey students when I become an alumna.”

Share your experience and expertise

Ivey Career Management is now accepting applications from professionals interested in participating in career conversations with Ivey students. Read more about the program or complete the enrolment form.