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Professors, students discuss importance of networking at entrepreneurship conference

The Telfer School of Management emphasized the advantages students have in an entrepreneurial setting at an event hosted as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week.

Telfer partnered with TiEcon Canada, a non-profit organization seeking to foster and support entrepreneurs, to host a conference and discuss the importance and intricacies of professional networking.

Telfer’s Nov. 18–22 Entrepreneurship Week will include panels, competitions, and networking opportunities for students interested in business. Vice dean of career development and professor Barbara Orser said new entrepreneurs often make the mistake of relying on existing social networks, like friends and family, as opposed to forging new business networks.

“It’s important to look for specific skills and knowledge domains on who is going to build your business,” she said. “That’s all about how you manage your social capital.”

Michael Hyatt, executive chairman and co-founder at BlueCat Networks, and Canadian Broadcasting  Corporation Newsworld Business panelist, was one of the keynote speakers at the TiEcon conference. He said when it comes to starting a business, there are three requirements: the right market, the right partner, and the right product. Hyatt said students are at an advantage in terms of new businesses.

“I think students have one unique card that everyone else doesn’t, and that’s the student card,” he said. “You’d be surprised at how many people will help out a student. So if a student reaches out to a senior vice president, or chief executive officer, they might pass them on to someone else they know. I believe most people in business want to help out a student.”

Chad Malouin, a student entrepreneur and co-founder of KnowLine, plans to attend Entrepreneurship Week. He and three other student partners, with the help of Orser, developed an app last year to help students check the estimated wait time at various line-up areas at school, like the bookstore.

“If you do have an idea as a student, just go for it,” Malouin said. “There’s no harm in trying. We have so many opportunities at the University of Ottawa here to get help and ideas.”

Orser said professional networking is very different from personal.

“The challenge to every entrepreneurship participant during Entrepreneurship Week is, when you go to an event, have a very clear sense of your objective,” she said. “It’s not just about making friends. It’s about meeting people that can help you in a reciprocal relationship to build your business.”

Orser also said university is the ideal time for professional networking because of the frequent opportunities to interact and work with industry experts. She said experts provide opportunities to students that they would not afford once someone has graduated and is perceived as unemployed. She added that intentional marketing is not just for the business-minded.

“What is important is where is the demand, and an example would be nursing,” she said. “We don’t normally think of nursing. Where the media tends to emphasize is technology. Yes, you need tech in the operations of the firm, for sure, but is commercializing technology the only option? No. Wherever you are in your studies, or wherever you are in a sector, think about what the trends are and where the demands are.”