Alyssa Chan currently serves as the Director of Business Development for Free the Children in Toronto, Ontario. Previously, she served as the Director of Educational Partnerships, overseeing the development, evaluations, and expansion of Free The Children’s educational programs.
A graduate of Harvard University (Ed.M) and Queen’s University (B.Sc, B.Ed), Alyssa is passionate about educational equity, and strives to expand educational opportunities and audiences.
For our Elletourage eBook, “Voices of Vancouver: Networking and Succeeding,” we asked a number of different questions to Alyssa in regards to how she navigates networking in the big smoke. Below are her answers.
How and where did you form your most significant contacts? How have these changed over time?
Every so often, I still participate in general networking events in the city – be it at a professional development presentation, or through specific networking organizations. However, my most significant contacts have come from more intimate, topic-specific gatherings that convene people already working toward similar goals. I have found more value when being flexible to join a roundtable discussion or meeting recommended by a colleague than when signing up for a conference months in advance. Quality conversations with like-minded people have proven more meaningful than a large quantity of standard conversations, because it allows you the opportunity to refine what it is you’re seeking from others, and vice versa.
What does networking look like in your world? What are some of your top tips for successfully networking in this city?
In the educational not-for-profit sector, I m fortunate to work in an expansive world that connects both public and private stakeholders who are interested in supporting youth engagement. There are formal networking opportunities through community gatherings, fundraising events, and educational or philanthropic conferences. However, there are also informal – often surprising – opportunities to network; be it through mutual friends, in a coffee shop, or even on a plane (which I may or may not experience regularly!).
I’d suggest considering the following when networking in the city:
- Understand your “why”: Think about why you work where you do, and not just what you do. People are engaged when you speak genuinely about your work, and you will be able to make wider connections with shared interests than shared industries.
- Connect your connections: If you can’t directly support someone, you may be just as helpful by connecting them to someone you know. By being a connector, you benefit an additional contact, and continue to build trust within your network.
- Exchange e-mails vs. business cards: I’ve found that a quick and direct e-mail noting down topics that you’ve discussed can help both parties remember the conversation, and moreover, be motivated to follow-up.
What advice do you have for the woman who is just starting out in her career or considering a leap to a new career?
Call me old school, but I still think it is imperative to know what you can do for a company and not just what the company can do for you and your career. Give yourself time to become an expert in your work, while staying humble in seeking opportunities to continuously improve.
When you know what you can give, and what areas you want to grow, seek out those leaders in your respective industry and take the step forward to directly reach out. They will be fortunate to have met you!
To learn more about networking from successful women like Alyssa, sign up for Elletourage and download our free eBook! There’s plenty more networking advice to be had.