Like many students, Danielle Dhaliwal knew what she wanted, but she didn't know quite how to get there.
Dhaliwal recently graduated from Thompson Rivers University with a bachelor of business administration degree specializing in human resources and marketing. While the degree was valuable, it didn't guarantee her anything.
Her story is familiar for students, whether in business, arts or sciences.
"We know relationship building is key to career development," said Susan Forseille, who chairs the university's career education department.
How do students, who may not be comfortable walking into offices or calling professionals for advice, get those networking contacts?
One way is the university's career mentoring program, which takes forms as varied as one-on-one pairings to "Networking 411" nights when students are put in a room with mentors and quickly rotate through to meet as many people as possible in a short time.
"Students move through in groups. They don't have to be an extrovert," said Forseille.
Dhaliwal said she's not an extovert but knew she wanted to meet people in the industry to get her career moving.
Following a meeting at a group event with mentors and students at TRU last year, Dhaliwal was paired with Jennifer Howatt, a human resources advisor at the City of Kamloops.
The two met last year and have continued the relationship, extending it through the B.C. Human Resources Management Association.
"I was interested in getting my name out there," said Dhaliwal, who credits Howatt for helping her get two temporary jobs, first at the City and now at TRU.
"She would look over my resume and give me tips."
Howatt said the relationship goes both ways, with the pair hitting it off personally and professionally. They meet formally once a month but will also go out occasionally for lunch or coffee and exchange texts and emails.
"I'm learning from her — her knowledge and theory is fresh," said Howatt, who graduated from the University College of the Cariboo a decade ago.
Forseille said success stories like Dhaliwal's and Howatt's are commonplace. Networking events lead to valuable pairings, in business, arts and sciences.
For some students the contacts help them decide what they're going to do after school. The university has used mentors in disciplines ranging from doctors and engineers to information technology professionals.
Students are typically in third and fourth years of their respective programs.
"The most commented thing is they (mentors) wish they had those opportunities in their life," Forseille said.
Unlike some, Howatt had the same opportunity to work with a mentor while she was at university, through B.C. Human Resources Management Association.
"It introduced me to professionals in human resources in Kamloops especially," she said. "It gave me really good exposure."
The university is looking for mentors to expand the program. More information is available at firstname.lastname@example.org.