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Connections still crucial to career success

November 7, 2013
Vancouver Sun
Author: 
Michael Devisser

Opinion: Sometimes it’s not what you know, but whom you know With the school year nearing the half way point — a lot of undergrads will be turning their attention to what to do next — and for many that will mean looking at a graduate degree or going out to get a start in the workforce. One piece of advice students have been hearing for as long as there have been business schools is “it’s not what you know, but whom you know.” And it’s a sentiment that still remains as popular as ever today. In fact, a Government-backed survey conducted earlier this year in Great Britain showed two-thirds of respondents agreed with the statement “whom you know matters more than what you know” when seeking a new job. Taking this idea a step further, one European University has even gone so far as to appoint a visiting “professor of networking.” For students today there are a whole new range of tools available to make building some of these crucial connections even easier. Social networking has grown up, and university students who are using Facebook and Instagram socially are now shifting their attention to tools that are built with business networking in mind. One of the largest of these, LinkedIn, has almost 9 million users in Canada alone, and over 200 million users worldwide. Using tools like this, young professionals can start reaching out to those in the industries they want to learn more about, and just as easily connect with someone in Hong Kong as a potential employer in Winnipeg. While tools like this have certainly made networking faster and easier — there is still nothing that can substitute for making a personal connection. For many students these connections start at school. Some of the ties that are made in an MBA class or first year accounting course — can lead to some of the most important business connections a person will ever make. As more post secondary institutions move their courses online — some of these crucial personal connections are being lost. While online learning provides clear benefits including cost, accessibility and flexibility, it falls down badly when it comes to providing an environment where social connections can flourish. One option that provides the best of both worlds to prospective students is a hybrid education model that combines time in residency, together with online learning. Here in Canada, Royal Roads University has led the way with this model, providing flexible online courses, but also having an intense residency period, where students can build a strong peer group vital to future business success. Networking is a valuable skill I learned at RRU, and has played a crucial role in my career. Years ago while working in China, I met with the owner of a large bike factory to discuss introducing an electric bike to the North American market. The timing was right and we continue to have a strong partnership while growing our business today. The power of networking in my career development is why I am happy to be working with RRU to give back by making connections with today’s potential students. So as you look at your options for the coming year — think about all the factors that will go into making you best prepared for a new career, and keep the need to build your personal business network at the top of your mind. Michael DeVisser is a graduate of the business program at Royal Roads University, the co-founder and CEO of OHM Cycles (one of the largest electric bike companies in Canada), and a face of the new RRU Inspiring Connections campaign. He recently appeared on CBC reality show the Dragons’ Den. © Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun