For this week’s edition of our Student Spotlight, Lauren Zvaniga, a 2nd-year Corporate Residency MBA student from Mississauga, Ontario, shares her experience on the Toronto Connects Tour that took place last month and also offers some advice to current students about networking and meeting with employers.
Lauren’s focus for her CRMBA has been in marketing, with a keen interest in the creative aspect of the profession, due to her undergraduate degree in Theatre. Lauren completed her residency with BMO Financial Group in Toronto as a Marketing Coordinator in their Credit Card Lifecycle division. During her time there, she realized that a career in Marketing was the right fit for her.
In Lauren’s words, “I fell in love with the job – one that challenged my MBA-critical-thinking side and one that tickled my artsy-creative side. The biggest thing I learned about myself at BMO is that marketing is, in fact, my dream career.”
Looking ahead to post-grad employment, she has accepted an offer to return to BMO as a full-time employee, beginning in June. Nonetheless, Lauren still wants to continue learning about other career options, which is where the Toronto Connects Tour came in.
The Toronto Connects Tour is a career development event for 2nd-year CRMBA students that includes a networking luncheon with the MBA program’s Board of Advisors, an alumni discussion panel, and a networking reception with MBA alumni and employers. In addition, the students on the Tour are required to coordinate at least 3 one-on-one informational interviews that align with their career goals and do a reflective practice on their experience afterward.
Lauren decided to book informational interviews that would help her understand what it’s like to work in procurement as well as what it’s like to work at an advertising agency. She met with the Director of Procurement at HelloFresh, the Director of Planning at Jungle Media (“I told her about my dream to work in marketing at IKEA and as it turns out, IKEA has been her client for many years!”), and a former colleague from Loyalty One, a Client Marketing Specialist. These meetings were made possible by tapping into both her personal and professional network.
“For many people, I think the idea of networking seems like an artificial way to meet someone when in reality it is an awesome opportunity to learn. My networking philosophy is that if you approach every meeting and networking event trying to learn, you won’t come across as that desperate, ‘give me a job!!!’ person, because that’s not your goal. Networking is an ongoing, lifelong activity you do to grow your network and your understanding.”
The biggest challenge that she faced in arranging the meetings was trying to get to each one on time since they were so spread out across the city.
Lauren recalls that “this was one of those ‘easier said than done’ lessons I learned the hard way. By the time 5 p.m. rolled around, I was completely exhausted… having spent 8 hours running around the city, drinking coffee at every meeting, actively listening and asking meaningful questions.”
Regardless of her scheduling challenges, Lauren found each meeting to be incredibly valuable and informative about the career paths she was most curious about.
“I love meeting new people and learning about their career paths and aspirations. I learned that many of the things I like about marketing apply to procurement: strategy, relationship management, problem-solving, etc., and that agency work requires long hours but it is an extremely collaborative and creative field to work in. Most importantly, I learned that there are opportunities for me to explore outside of marketing, and I am never stuck in one role.”
When asked to sum up the advice she would give to students who have yet to organize their own informal interviews, Lauren shared the following:
- Planning out a calendar is important, but also draw it out on a map!
- Wear a watch – you won’t want to take out your phone to check the time because it can be rude.
- Think of what you really want to learn from this person before you meet with them – you’ll ask better questions and get better answers.
- Even if you have a job lined up, take advantage of an opportunity to grow your network!
- Remember that you’re not “just a student right now”, you are an ambitious, curious, passionate young professional and everyone that agreed to meet with you wants to meet with you.
Regardless of your short and long term career goals, arranging informational interviews can provide key insights to help you achieve them. Don’t wait for the next networking opportunity to present itself – create the opportunity for yourself like Lauren did. Ask your Career and Recruitment Specialist for tips on how to incorporate informational interviews into your job search or career development strategy.