Sponsored feature: The Toronto Region Board of Trade
There are a million ways to professionally network, making it hard to know exactly where to invest time and energy. Social media, mixer events, and private clubs all provide opportunities for young professionals to put themselves out there and advance their careers. But there are very few ways to know exactly what will come out of networking, or the quality of connections.
Luckily, the Toronto Region Board of Trade’s Young Professionals Network (YPN) helps its members not just make connections, but quality connections. The Board’s YPN is known as one of the city’s premier career advancement tools, and that’s not just because of the workshops and events with leaders under 40 in every sector — but because young professionals are put in touch with the top executives in every industry.
The platform provided by the Board is invaluable. Members of the YPN are given ample opportunities to not only make meaningful connections, but to build their resources, such as through career development workshops, to enhance their profile, which includes finding new clients and partners, and giving members of the YPN a platform to have their voices heard and ultimately expand their influence.
In the early 2000s, Nat Korol was introduced to the Toronto Region Board of Trade. In 2016, through the programming provided with the Board’s Young Professionals Network (YPN), she was able to start her own company, Hyphen Co., a digital marketing agency. Today, Korol is vice chair of the YPN Committee.
“Working alongside committee members over the last two years, I’ve experienced that everyone has unique ideas, knowledge and enthusiasm to enhance the impact of the YP voice,” said Korol of her time with the board. “My aim is to ensure all our voices are heard to execute on those ideas to continue creating quality content and connections.”
The Board’s YPN helps its members make not just any connections, but connections that make a tangible difference. The Board’s YPN is known as one of the city’s most well known networking hubs, known primarily for their interactive workshops and career-building events supported by leaders in the business community.
In Korol’s experience, the YPN shows its value through two components. First, through the actual events that the YPN curate. Secondly, the YPN let’s young professionals understand how they can benefit from the program.
“The way I’d look at it overall is, if you’re thinking of joining or attending an event, the number one thing to consider is what do you want to get out of it,” Korol says of the program. “The learning opportunities the Board provides are invaluable.”
With 13,500 members, the Board is at the hub of the region’s business community, meaning young professionals in the program are associated with one of the largest and most influential chambers of commerce on the continent.
For Korol, what stands out most is that members of the Board’s network have a level of respect and openness that goes beyond simply climbing the corporate ladder, which is an essential part of how the members of the YPN find and establish relationships that truly make an impact.
“It’s not snooty, but it’s polished. People are open and willing to share with ease,” says Korol. “And for young professionals, it’s about getting the most out of their time, so it’s less about just trading business cards and more about what they’re learning and who they’re meeting.”
One of the mainstays of the YPN’s programming includes facilitating quality introductions between its young professionals and quality top executives from the Board’s network. Among the programming the YPN provides is “speed networking,” where young professionals get one-on-one time with business leaders, sort of like speed-dating.
“When it comes to networking itself, people tend to talk about the numbers and variety of industries which is great.” Korol also points out that one main difference between the YPN and other groups is the Board’s YPN caters to anyone under the age of 40—not just in the 20 to 30-year range, typical of most groups.
“You get a really good mix of people from not just different age groups, but also industries,” Korol says. This translates to interaction and guidance that is relevant and valuable. “It’s something you can sink your teeth into, rather than having a mentor that might not be actively working in your field.”
As someone who hires young talent, Korol believes the YPN gives her important insights towards better understanding the needs of potential employees. “The network has been important in seeing what drives people these days and what they look for in roles and responsibilities.”
Generally, one of the biggest drawbacks for some young professionals is that the idea of “networking” is intimidating, and sometimes even pretentious. Experiencing how the YPN works, Korol sees a mix of both polished networking along with easy-going conversation. And, as someone who has used the resources provided by the YPN to her advantage to become a co-founder of her own company, Korol is one to talk.
“It’s easy to think of the Board of Trade and say, ‘It’s just a bunch of people looking for jobs in suits,’ but they are all, really, sincerely kind people,” reflects Korol. “This translates well into becoming an open, nurturing, environment where meaningful conversations turn into quality mentorship and organic opportunities for growth.”