I glance over at the calendar and the glaring reminder that it is already the middle of March stares back at me. As a fourth-year student, I am met with the finality of my university experience. I may be an Education student with a perceived career before me, however, my future endeavours hold as much as uncertainty as the next, and requires forethought. The life between the end here and the beginning over there appears to be a vast canyon, and I stand on the precipice. Believe me, I want to take a step (or several) forward, yet I am not entirely sure how or where to do so. It is then valid to ask, how does one make the connection?
Last Wednesday, I had the opportunity to sit down with Jennah Dohms and Joel Hansen, two members of this year’s TWUSA team bringing life to this year’s Connect Conference. If the event does not ring a bell, don’t be alarmed—it is new to the roster. This year, Trinity Western University’s Student Association is hosting its first-ever Connect Conference on March 25th at SKY Hangar in Pitt Meadows. The goal is to create a space for TWU students to become better equipped to be workplace leaders, with a mission to bridge the gap between undergraduate students and after-grad opportunities by connecting students of all faculties with industry leaders, practical workshops, and alumni.
Jennah Dohms said that there have been some transition programs at TWU, such as Backpack to Briefcase, but that this year’s TWUSA is focusing on transition because there still is a bit of a gap.
“TWU students are challenged and grow while at TWU, but then there isn’t much follow-up on how to move forward,” Dohms said. “A lot of business students are told to think about what is next, but many other faculties have as much focus on that. So, the team’s goal has been to provide a space where all students can think about those things.”
Hearing from friends who have graduated in years prior, I myself can see the gap: when four years are laid out before you in the form of engaging courses, what then should we do next? In order to step forward, we should know what element is missing. Joel Hansen suggested that the missing element is career development strategies. “If TWU has 20,000 alumni, why not feature some of those individuals as industry leaders or contact points?” Hansen said. “Bringing in speakers from all different faculties, from Nursing to Psychology, we thought students could be better equipped through alumni shared experience.”
So logistically, what does this actually look like? It all comes down to goal setting, personal financing, networking and character building. Before I potentially lose any of the non-business students with corporate language, let it be noted that this conference is designed to engage with all faculties and fields of study. It’s been crafted with diverse career paths in mind, and cultural and generational relevancy (and what communicates that more clearly than Starbucks and Tacofino catering the event?) Again, this is not your average career fair.
So, why connect? Dohms explained that the great thing about this event that it was built entirely by students. “We collectively came up with the idea, but in order for this to work, we wanted the input of everyone,” she said. “Influence points from around campus shared what they wanted and alongside the TWUSA team before this event was cultivated.”
Personally, I was struck simply by the desire of students to help other students. If the resources are available, why not provide a shared space for students and alumni to engage in conversation, without the awkward first interaction? This isn’t a manufactured space for “networking”; get to know your table, hear their stories and receive their advice.
“We can’t promise jobs or internships,” Hansen said, laughing. “But the hope is that you are connecting with strategies and people, with the space and alumni.”
“As a Biology student, networking and work transition skills are not a significant part of our program; as such, the opportunity to learn from industry professionals regarding these topics will be very valuable. Hearing from professionals in a variety of workplaces will reveal tricks and skills relevant to all workplace environments and relationships. Additionally, the opportunity to get Tacofino without heading all the way to Vancouver is totally worth it.” – Aaron Boehmer
“I’m excited to hear the speakers at Connect Conference who will share insights as individuals who are successful in careers and professions I am largely unfamiliar with.” – Taylor Graham
“The Connect Conference is a fantastic opportunity to hear how thriving industry leaders made it from where I am today to where they are today. I’m looking forward to learning how I can best utilize my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology to move towards my career goals now, not just after graduation.” – Nicole Palmer
“I think the connect conference is a perfect place to learn how to go from a student to a successful graduate. It will be a great opportunity to hear real experiences from people in my own field of study in how they found their success after university.” – Andrew DeGroot
“This event is a rare opportunity to connect with highly influential individuals and motivated world-changers, and all in a context where they’re interested in meeting with students. I’m so looking forward to hearing from the speakers and to enjoy a day of networking with both industry leaders and my peers.” – Kaitlin Bloemberg