Alumni Networking Event Fosters Collaboration, Support, and More
St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) alumni had the opportunity to connect while learning more about networking and navigating the post-pandemic job market at our Alumni Association’s recent in-person Alumni Networking Event.
Andrew King, alumni relations officer at SMCS, hosted the event, initially set to be hosted by alumnus Steven Hellmann ’96, who had to recuse himself for health reasons.
“The passion of the SMCS community is evident at events like the alumni networking evenings,” says King. “A resourceful group of people looking to pay it forward and help each other get ahead in their careers and lives.”
Although not in attendance, Hellman, an award-winning entrepreneur and founder of The Foodies Group (TM) and Little Birdie Media, shared his thoughts on the power and importance of networking.
“Networking creates opportunities for collaboration and partnerships,” says Hellmann. “Through meaningful connections, you can find like-minded individuals who share your passions and goals. Collaborative efforts can lead to innovative projects, shared expertise, and exponential growth. Building a strong network also enhances your visibility and personal brand.”
He adds, “When you make an effort to connect with others, you increase your chances of being top-of-mind when opportunities arise. Your network becomes a powerful advocate for your skills and abilities, spreading the word about your expertise and opening doors to new possibilities.”
Keynote speaker, Martin Fox ’02, managing director, Canada, at Robert Walters Group, shared similar thoughts with the group. He also reflected on his time at SMCS, sharing how his career started and what led to his early success.
“Networking has been crucial to my career right from the start,” says Fox. “I have been with Robert Walters for 17 years, and it all started through an introduction from a good friend of mine (also a SMCS alumnus) who used my firm’s services to find a job. From that point, the relationships I have built through networking have resulted in dozens of meaningful opportunities for me, both professional and personal.”
Fox also highlighted the importance of being prepared by putting in the work — ensuring you are researching your industry, routinely sharpening your skillsets, and understanding your transferable skills and the value you can provide.
“You need a plan when attacking a new industry,” says Fox. “Map out the key companies and individuals within the industry, be well-researched on that industry, and then start utilizing connections. You or your peers must meet as many people in that industry as possible to show your commitment to breaking into it. You need to have an ‘elevator pitch’ ready about yourself to clearly explain how you will utilize your current skills/knowledge to make this break.”
Fox stressed that taking the initiative to attend in-person functions may seem daunting, but when paired with preparation can be very rewarding.
“Get out and meet people in person as much as possible,” he says. “Be smart with your time and the time of others by booking 15-30-minute meetings close to your target connection and come prepared with three goals you want to get out of it. Always follow up with a thank you note and some action plan that will come out of that connection.
“I truly believe there is a ‘first mover’ advantage when it comes to this topic, and those that take the initiative to get in front of people will make much more meaningful connections versus those that default to a phone or virtual call.
The more prepared you are, the more open you will be to new conversations, enabling you to ask the right questions and expand your network. You never know where a new opportunity could come from. The ‘six degrees of separation’ is much smaller than you often think.”
As SMCS alumni, the ability to reach beyond the halls of the school and throughout the world was a reality Fox discussed, sharing his experiences from working in some of the largest recruiting markets.
“Having a strong network is even more important in a place like Toronto which – despite being a huge metropolis that is extremely diverse – still has several tightly knit circles which often produce opportunities for the people in those circles that would not be available to others,” Fox emphasized.
“Have a methodical plan around what industry and jobs you are seeking and then be proactive and tenacious around networking with people connected to these industries/jobs,” says Fox. “Always look for SMCS alumni first and lean on them or the Alumni Association for introductions.”
Alumni in attendance shared their experiences connecting with other alumni to make new connections in the evening’s industry breakout groups.
“My goal was to meet like-minded individuals that I could build relationships with, and the event certainly did meet my expectations,” says Daniel Berton ’23. “In terms of Martin Fox’s keynote, he mentioned a lot of great ideas and highlighted the importance of networking and following up to maintain strong relationships.”
Alumnus Alexander Mayhew ’14 also commented on the insightful keynote and how refreshing it was to hear from the recruitment perspectives. “Martin Fox’s address was fantastic, he touched on why and how to build a network while describing the role of LinkedIn as a tool to engage with connections and utilize the site to develop a personal brand that will attract future employers and/or potential leads.” Mayhew looks forward to the next alumni social and calls on young professionals to come out and strengthen the alumni network.