Feb. 7, 2022

Gathering and Nurturing Your Own Career Champions

This year’s Grow Your Career conference offers a blockbuster lineup of sessions, from speed mentoring and navigating work as a BIPOC professional, to a panel of trailblazing alumnae and a keynote with one of Canada’s fastest track stars
Grow Your Career Conference 2022

Disruptive technologies and a global pandemic has drastically transformed the world of work. The need to be ready for the unpredictable and rapidly changing work force is exactly what has inspired the design behind UCalgary Alumni’s upcoming Grow Your Career Conference. This interactive conference will be held virtually with the aim of equipping UCalgary alumni (of any age or work stage) with fresh strategies, tools, skills and confidence to search for, and keep, work.  Get ready to engage in lively conversations and motivating workshops on where we go from here.

Feedback from Alumni’s ongoing career programming has pinpointed key areas of interest: mentoring (don’t skip the conference’s interactive Speed Mentoring session, which includes topics such as everything to do with startups, changing careers, and pursuing jobs in the not-for-profit sector). Oh yes, all that please along with a healthy side of inspiration (you’ll love the keynote with Canadian track star Sam Effah).

From March 1-10, you will find numerous online sessions that expand on those very topics, as well as a panel of trailblazing alumnae who have defied conventional careers and another panel by, and for, professionals who identify as BIPOC.

Sam Effah, BComm'14

Sam Effah, BComm'14

But why wait until March for some much-needed inspiration? Here’s a preview with this year’s keynote speaker, two-time Canadian 100-metre champion and Amazing Race Canada powerhouse Sam Effah, BComm’14. The sprint star now works with RBC’s Youth Strategy and Innovation team, helping young people prepare for the future of work:

Drive, grit, determination — where does your unstoppable ambition come from?

My upbringing.  As a young child, my parents always had a growth mindset and constantly pushed me to dream big. I was always taught that, if being successful was easy, everyone would do it.  When you have parents who have put everything on the line to support you, it’s easy to look to them to get motivated.

Besides injuries, what hurdles have you had to overcome in pursuing your dreams?

As a kid, I was very shy. Being in the sport of track and field, where you have audiences of up to 60,000 (or more), I was forced to overcome this and be more outgoing. I began public speaking at the beginning of my career to make myself more comfortable in front of people, and now I've grown to really enjoy it — in fact, it's my side business. My biggest challenge right now is transitioning into a full-time corporate job. It's a different dynamic than training, but what I love about it is that I'm continuously learning.

Mentorship is such a hot-button topic these days — do you have any tips on how to forge an ideal connection?

Start by asking yourself what you’re passionate about. Next, be clear about your goals. Once you’ve done this, look within your existing network, and, if that doesn’t work, go to professional networking events like this conference (there are lots available virtually) and/or join a mentorship platform. It's important to align with someone who understands your goals and understands the industry you’re looking to enter.

How do you inspire people?

People never seem to tire of hearing about how I never played organized sports growing up, but fell into my sport late — in first year of my undergrad degree. Interestingly, people seem to relate with my attempts to get to the Olympics, significantly more than my accolades. When I speak about training for the Games during a pandemic, while doing my master’s, and volunteering . . . people want to know my mindset, why I take on so much and how they, too, can take on big goals. Being able to speak to that journey, and how I've been able to leverage opportunities with my platform is a story, my story, that I love to tell.

Besides mentorship, another area that people want to learn more about is failure. What have you learned from some of your stumbles?

My biggest “failure” was missing the 2021 Olympics. This was something I dreamed about as a kid, and to come up short was devastating. I pushed harder for that . . . more than anything else in my life. Today, when I look back, I am proud of myself for going after a dream, remaining persistent and staying the course and I learned so much about myself.

Do you have a quote or a motto that you repeat when times are tough?

“Don’t stop when you’re tired, stop when you’re done.”

Besides Sam Effah, the 2022 Grow Your Career Conference features an empowering lineup of speakers who have forged unique careers, demonstrated resilience and blazed their own trails. 

Whether you are looking to launch, advance or reimagine your career, this year’s conference sessions were designed to inspire you!

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