The Board of Trade’s young professionals bring a strong game beyond Bay Street

Sponsored feature: The city’s premier YP program delivers a diversity touchpoint that fosters an ecosystem of leaders

What does “industry diversity” mean? In today’s competitive business world, the phrase is coming up more frequently. Not only does it refer to diversity among employees, but diversity in the sectors and industries represented in your professional network.

When it comes to the latter, the Toronto Region Board of Trade’s Young Professionals Network (YPN) is looking beyond Bay Street – especially in the suburbs and in unconventional sectors like hospitality, photography, arts and digital marketing, to name a few.

The YPN offers professional development workshops and networking events for emerging leaders under 40. Examples include speed networking and Tales From The Top, which is hosted at accounting and consultancy firm KPMG’s Bay Street offices and gives members a chance to interact with top Canadian and international executives one-on-one or in group settings. 

Last fall, the YPN hosted a breakfast workshop presented by LinkedIn that taught attendees how to optimize their social media profiles and content.

“Careers are typically long-term,” advises KPMG Canada senior manager and YPN committee chair Jordan Potter-Davey. “It is best to focus on making connections and finding ways to help others as opposed to being preoccupied with benefits for ourselves.” 

To accommodate changing industry demands and shifting demographics among membership, the YPN now organizes seminars and workshops beyond the downtown core. 

With over 1,800 members and counting – a 20 per cent growth in the last six months – there’s also more entrepreneurs and small business owners signing up. By connecting employers with future employees, the goal is to strengthen Toronto socially and economically. 

“The more we connect in person to learn, develop relationships or simply try something new, it’s all the better for our city,” says Potter-Davey. 

We spoke with Potter-Davey about the importance of expanding professional networks outside financial district.

What does the phrase “industry diversity” mean to you?

Diversity is key to a vibrant network. That includes diversity in people as well as the sectors and industries represented. In the past year, we have made significant gains in the industries represented within the YPN. Many of our events are in the downtown core, so we were initially heavily represented by bankers, lawyers, consultants and marketers. While that was a good place to start, it clearly didn’t cover the breadth of the Toronto Region Board of Trade. To expand our reach we aligned the content of our events this year with our policy and advocacy goals, which has yielded positive results. 

What sets YPN apart from other networks?

Our Young Professionals Network is for people who not only want to socialize and expand their personal networks but who also have policy and advocacy interests in trade, transportation, talent, energy and/or technology sectors. 

What challenges do people face in networking if everything is focused on Bay Street?

If the membership and events are strictly focused on Bay Street then there is little compelling others to join the network. The YPN was intended to represent all of the companies that are part of the Toronto Region Board of Trade. That includes a broad spectrum of small to large organizations from a variety of industries including insurance, real estate, professional services, financial services, technology services, hospitality, transportation, power and utilities, etc.

Why is networking within non-traditional sectors important to the YPN? 

The purpose of the YPN is to expose and provide young professionals with access to the Toronto Region Board of Trade. We want to engage with young professionals and be their advocates for the growth and competitiveness of the Toronto region – today, and throughout all phases of their careers. As such, the YPN caters to a wide selection of sectors and industries. Moreover, it makes our events significantly more interesting when it’s more than just Bay Street in attendance!

What do you look for in a job candidate?

A trait that I look for in candidates is intellectual curiosity. On the job training can improve many other skills and competencies. I want to hire those who are continuously pursuing personal and professional development. We make a concerted effort to attract those types of people. I hope those traits make our members appealing to employers as well.

Sponsored feature: The Toronto Region Board of Trade

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