During the start of my third year of university I knew that I had to start networking more. I had just come out of my one years worth of co-op at Gay Lea Foods which was great for experience but aside from that I didn’t really know any one in the industry outside of the company.
As a student in Chemistry my program didn’t really give me access to meeting people in food (at least not until I started doing my thesis). Just saying I am going to network isn’t enough I needed to actually figure out the place I was going to do it. So I headed to the place where any one would look if they were interested in finding out places to connect. The internet!
In my search I stumbled upon an organization known as WFIM- Women in Food Industry. An organization providing exactly what I was looking for and more!
What is WFIM?
WFIM also known as Women in Food Industry Management is an organization providing opportunities for food industry professionals (not just women) to network and support each other in their careers. Events take place in the Greater Toronto Area and generally occur around Mississauga.
Every month or so they host a networking event in which professionals can come and talk about about their experiences in the food industry. The events do have a fee which is discounted if you are a student and/or have a membership. Usually the events start with time for networking and then they are followed by typically a guest speaker.
(Oh did I mention they have food? Like really good food?)
That is just my summary of WFIM. If you want to learn more than check out their website.
So why should you join WFIM?
1. You meet amazing people
As with any networking event the best part is you have the opportunity to meet people who are doing amazing things in their careers. As a student I always enjoyed going up to people and asking how they they ended up where they were and what advice they could they give to someone still a student. At WFIM there are so many people there willing to talk to you!
The most memorable was a young professional who was a product developer and had only been in her career for about a year. I was almost about to graduate, still hadn’t found a job and was stressed. They reassured me by telling me they had been in the same situation as myself and not to rush things. Hearing those words helped me through a difficult time and I still am to this day thankful.
2. You gain an understanding of the food industry
As a student I really didn’t know where I wanted to go in the food industry. Product development? Quality? Regulatory? There were two main reasons, one because I didn’t know what jobs were available and two I never had actually talked to anyone in the industry outside of Gay Lea.
At WFIM I had the opportunity to speak to many individuals including the owner of a flavour company. It was after that conversation I found a spark in interest in the flavour industry. This eventually led me to write over 40 articles about flavour on the My Food Job Rocks Podcast blog.
3. There are interesting panels going on
I’ll let you in on a secret. When I was a student I was very shy. Many times when I would go to these networking events by myself I would be too nervous to talk to anyone. My saving grace in making sure that the event was not a total bust was the panels that took place at every WFIM event.
The first event I went to was a Network and Nibbles event and the event didn’t go as well as I hoped. I had a hard time approaching anyone and I didn’t talk to anyone. After the agonizing hour that felt like forever I sat and listened to the panel for the night. At this particular event the panel was about expected food trends based on age. It was really insightful and I left the night still feeling it was a success.
4. They have a mentorship program
Another great aspect of WFIM is no matter what your role is you can apply to the WFIM mentorship program. “Planting the Seeds of Success” mentoring is designed for women who are looking to learn from experience.
You can apply for the mentorship program if you are a member of WFIM. All you have to do is fill in an application and that is it! The person who acts as your mentor holds a high title as they at least hold the title of Director, C-level, owner or have many years of experience in an area of interest. Every month you meet with your coach at least 1.5 hours per month.
Think about all the valuable information you could pick up in that time frame!
5. They have a scholarship
Another strong reason for students to get involved in WFIM is because student have the opportunity to receive a scholarship. Every year around June WFIM recognizes the value of female students graduating from studies related to the Food Industry. The scholarship is $1000 cash award and a one-year membership to WFIM.
To be eligible for the scholarship award, the applicant must
- Be a Female student graduating from a Food Industry educational program
- Demonstrate academic merit (75% or higher)
- Demonstrate interest and leadership in the food industry (such as involvement at school, volunteerism, work or community service.)
From a personal perspective there is not a lot of student members of WFIM. This means that you have a higher chance at receiving the award if you fulfil the requirements. Although I never personally applied for the scholarship I do realize it is a valuable reward. Just make sure you pay attention to the deadline! Applications are due typically at the end of March.
I highly recommend WFIM to anyone. If you have any questions about my experiences in WFIM then you can shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author: Veronica Hislop – Veronica is a recent Chemistry grad from Ryerson University and is a Quality Assurance Technician at snack company. She has a passion for bringing awareness to sustainability in the food industry. When Veronica is taking a break from her food endeavours you will find her at home reading a great novel and playing with her cats.
Would YOU like to learn how to get involved and become a FoodGrads Campus Ambassador/Career Partner? What about sharing your voice when it comes to promoting the food industry? Great, we’d love to have you!
Interested in a career in Food & Beverage? Join FoodGrads for FREE today! www.foodgrads.com
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