Career Talks unites UNB alumni and current students at Lily Lake Pavilion

Photo: Mary Duffley

November 14th marked yet another successful Career Talks networking event, hosted by the UNB Saint John Alumni Office at the Lily Lake Pavilion. Held annually for roughly the past six years, the event seeks to connect current UNB students with local alumni who can provide them with advice about resume writing, interview tactics, and how to build a strong network.

Nearly thirty alumni were present at the event to offer up their expertise, from a variety of faculties and fields, including lawyers, pharmacists and dentists, and several human resources representatives. Mary Duffley, the Alumni Program Manager at UNB Saint John and co-host of the event, spoke enthusiastically to the Baron about the alumni in attendance.

Photo: Mary Duffley

“We have so many great alumni in the community who are willing to share their expertise and enjoy interacting with students,” she explained. “They all have something to share; some of them are younger grads who [have recently joined] the workforce, and so they [vividly] remember what it was like to be a student. Some, [on the other hand], have been out for [as long as] 10-20 years, which provides a very different perspective.”

The event consisted of three twenty-minute table talk sessions, during which alumni would give tips and answer students questions about the following three topics:

  1. Resume and Interviewing Tips
  2. Practical Tips [for] Building Your Network
  3. Making a Good First Impression

During each session, students were also given the opportunity to seek advice about careers in Arts, Science, and/or Business, as well as to ask any other general questions that they may have had. The general consensus with students about the table talk sessions was overwhelmingly positive.

“[The table talks] were so good,” Kenya Plut declared. She thought that “it was awesome that the alumni all want [the current students] to succeed. They want what’s best for UNB and for UNB’s students, and they all gave us tips that are going to help us [do so].”

Similarly, Jake Prosser felt that the table talks were beneficial because having the opportunity to talk face-to-face with professionals in the hiring industry provides students with far better answers to their questions and concerns than a Google search would.

“Firsthand tips from people who might actually be hiring you [someday], rather than just Google search results for things like ‘resume tips’ or ‘interview strategies’, is really useful,” Prosser explained to which Plut added, “To hear an actual professional tell you, ‘This is what I want to hear when you walk into a room’ is way more useful than advice from a random website.”

Photo: Mary Duffley

Victor Szymanski was also enthusiastic about the relevance of the advice provided by the alumni.

“They gave us tips that were really applicable,” he says. “There was a lot of ‘this is what I want’ / ‘this is what I look for’ [from the head hunters], which is something that any student would find valuable.”

When asked why she thinks that Career Talks is important for students, Duffley told the Baron that, “[Decision making] can be very difficult for university students. They’re making a lot of [choices] about what to do for a career, what major they’re going to take, what their direction is going to be beyond UNB […] and often these concerns aren’t even their main priority. They’re worried about midterms and finals, and they may not have the time to network with people outside of UNB to help them think about the future. Career Talks provides them with a chance to do so through the university in a way that [hopefully] works with their schedules.”

After the table talk sessions there were prizes awarded to students in attendance via randomized draws, including two lucky students who each won $100 in cash from the Alumni Office. But the great advice and free UNB swag turned out to not be the biggest selling point for students who chose to attend Career Talks.

Plut, who is SRC President this year, told the Baron that she came to Career Talks because she “thought that [it] would be a good way to connect with people in [various industries] and just to be able to network a little bit more. I’ve made a great student network, but I wanted to make sure that I was meeting professionals, too. And, I mean, a free poutine bar? I’m there!”

That’s right, everyone – students who didn’t come out to Career Talks, missed out on free poutine. You could have eaten as much poutine as you wanted while getting great advice at the same time. Free poutine! This is not a drill!

Szymanski was also passionate about the free Canadian delicacy that he gained access to by attending Career Talks, explaining that “I came because I still have a lot to learn when it comes to how to succeed as a professional in the business world – and, of course, I love poutine!”

Who doesn’t love poutine? And who doesn’t love getting great advice, for that matter? The alumni in attendance were all extremely approachable and eager to help in any way that they could; in fact, Jessica Doucet (UNB grad class of 2014, Senior Staff Accountant at Ernst & Young) took some time out of enjoying her complimentary poutine to speak to this reporter about why she devoted her time to Career Talks.

“I like helping students because I was in the [same] situation. I graduated in 2014 and I remember being in that boat – not knowing what it’s [going to be] like after you graduate – so it’s really [helpful] to hear from people [currently in the workforce]. The questions that students have today are [exactly] what the alumni had when they went to UNB, so we can put ourselves into their shoes,” Doucet professed, adding that she “would like to think that [the alumni’s] answer[s] make students more comfortable with [coming] out to these kind of [events].”

Around 65 students were in attendance at this year’s Career Talks events, effectively filling the Pavilion with the addition of the 30 alumni and the faculty & staff members who volunteered their time to help out. Trish MacLeod, a second year BBA student, told the Baron that “the energy in the room was awesome thanks to the great turnout.”

Photo: Mary Duffley

While the majority of the students in attendance belonged to the Faculty of Business, Dr. Sandra Bell feels that Career Talks is “beneficial for Arts and Science students, [too]; perhaps even more so than for Business students. For instance, Arts students learn a lot of transferable skills that employers look for, but frequently [they] aren’t taught to see their many strengths. Many of the alumni who come out to help at these events have a BA or BSc and [have] very interesting jobs in the community, and their success can show students [from all faculties] that there are many options for all university graduates.”

Along with Career Talks, Duffley wants students to understand that “that the Alumni Office is a good resource. “[Career Talks] is an event that we do [yearly], but we have connections with alumni [for] if a student wants to meet with somebody or wants to know more about a particular career or profession. Perhaps we could make that connection for them with local alumni.”

For any student wishing to contact the Alumni Office about making connections with local alumni, either to ask questions or learn about a specific career, Duffley professes that “the best thing to do is to send an email (duffleym@unb.ca) or pop into [their] office (Oland Hall G30).”

The Young Alumni Constituency also hosts several other events throughout the academic year, including mixers and guest speaker events, and Duffley and her co-host, Natasha Rego (Young Alumni Coordinator at UNB Saint John), encourage current students to attend these, as well. They want students to know that they are always welcome.