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My Unconventional Career Journey into the Food and Beverage Processing Industry

By Veronica Hislop 

When it comes to my career journey in the food and beverage industry, getting involved with FoodGrads has changed my life 

Wait, say wutt? 

Yes, it’s introduced me to a huge community of passionate individuals and it all started from writing a blog post. 

These might be bold statements, but they are ones that I stand behind. How did this happen? 

Well, let me set the scene for you… 

My name is Veronica Hislop and I am currently a MSc candidate for Ryerson’s Molecular Science program. The fancy program name hides the fact that my thesis looks at emulsifiers and how they can change the texture of fat-based emulsions. Though for the past five years behind my degree I have been involved with FoodGrads, a partner of CareersNow!  

How FoodGrads supports students and grads on their career journey in the food and beverage industry.  

FoodGrads is an online platform looking to support students and graduates with their careers in the food and beverage industries. They have been doing this through their job board, blogs, e-book, podcast, social media platforms and their campus ambassador program.  

But at the heart of FoodGrads is the community. Once you get involved you are a FoodGrads “tribe” member for life. I have become connected with many young professionals just starting their careers through the campus ambassador program. 

Coming out of high school I knew that I wanted to go into food science and product development. I applied to all the food science programs in the province including Guelph, Ryerson and McMaster.   

The problem? 

I didn’t get accepted into any of the programs. Well, I was wait-listed but I never got off that list. On a whim for my application, I had applied to Ryerson’s undergraduate Chemistry program and it turns out that they were the only ones who extended an acceptance letter.  

Being my only option and I took it. 

Why a degree isn’t everything.  

In hindsight not being accepted to any of the food science programs was a blessing in disguise for my career journey. Knowing that I didn’t have my degree to fall on I would need to shape myself into someone with expertise in food because I couldn’t fall back on my school/degree for it. That meant seeking co-ops in the industry and creating an online presence that demonstrated I could fit in.  

Fast forward two years and through a family connection (my boyfriend’s mother’s boss’s cousin) I ended up getting a co-op position at the dairy company Gay Lea Foods as quality control summer student which eventually led me to a research and development internship.  

I loved working there! 

It was so fun seeing how all my favourite products were made on such a big scale. I love sour cream so much I can eat it straight up by the spoonful 

It was confirmation that I wanted to work in the food industry. Afterwards, I knew I needed to get more involved with the food industry even while in school. This thought eventually landed me a volunteer position for the FoodGrads Campus Ambassador program. This program was meant to make you an ambassador for the food industry where you tailor it to what works for you. You could do a presentation for the school, film videos or simply start blogging. 

I thought why not start blogging? 

Building a brand, network and community is crucial  

It all started with a simple article sharing my experience with Gay Lea Foods but I still wanted to blog more. So, I thought why not share knowledge on jobs that exist in the food industry? I was already researching the topic and I realized through this research that there really wasn’t that much information out there on the actual “jobs” in the food industry. A lot of it was outdated or clearly not written by someone who knew what these jobs entailed.  

After each article, I would share it on LinkedIn. To my surprise, a lot of people started to comment and share them. As a result, I was able to grow my network organically and started to see how many food professionals were on LinkedIn. By sharing my knowledge, I started to become known for my expertise in the subject and it felt really nice.  My blogging eventually allowed me to be able to write on here!  

In addition to blogging, I was involved with the campus ambassador program which connected me to other students. I met students from Niagara College, Guelph University and Centennial College. To this day I still am connected to all of them and it is great to know that I have this community I am a part of. 

 But I digress. What is the point of this article and what do I want to share? 

How to leverage blogging and online networking in your career journey 

You can build a great community and network in the food industry if you show up and share your voice! It can have a huge impact on your career journey.  

If I could give any advice to a young person (or anyone really) wanting to go into the food and beverage industry it would be to go online and be social. 

It will build your network and become a known voice in the industry. Building a robust network can help you in more ways than you can even imagine.  

The simplest way is to create a LinkedIn account and start following people in the industry, places you want to work at and topics that interest you. Once you have done so start commenting, sharing your opinion on things. 

Over time people will start to see your name and take notice. 

This might seem surprising but because the food industry is so small you will become noticeable. This can also make it a bit easier for you to reach out to these professionals in the future. You could send a message saying: 

“You have been following them for a while and would like to connect” 

I find LinkedIn the best social platform because the food professionals seem to like it best. I would also encourage you to start blogging to demonstrate and promote your expertise. There are many ways that you could choose to do this. Through LinkedIn’s embedded blog section, FoodGrads blog or even through simple LinkedIn posts. 

Not sure what to blog about? Here are a few ideas to get you started: 

  • Why you want to go into the food industry 
  • An experience at a co-op/internship 
  • Transforming the information that you have learned in class 
  • An opinion piece about a food science related topic 

One thing that I have learned over my entire time with FoodGrads is that creating an online presence is beneficial and can lead you to opportunities you could never even imagine. I have been able to apply to numerous jobs and write for online magazines! By blogging about flavours on the My Food Job Rock platform I was able to get an interview for a flavour position – had I not had that on my resume I would have never been asked for it on my job. Sashana Chattoo-Edwards was able to help get a full-time job in the food industry due to her involvement in the FoodGrads Campus Ambassador program. Getting involved really can really help you on your career journey. 

Overall, I encourage you to be more active online in the food industry because it is a rewarding community. If you’re still in school it can help ease you into the industry and help you out until that eventual time when you are applying for an internship or even a full-time career. 

Getting involved with FoodGrads has changed my life. I have had opportunities I would never have otherwise. Writing at the end of the day is fun and knowing that I am putting out some really great information makes the process even better. 

So, get out there and try it yourself! 

CareersNOW! Mentorship Sessions  

Want to learn more about what a career in the food and beverage manufacturing industry could look like for you?    

Sign up for one of CareersNOW!’s upcoming career mentorship sessions! Whether you’re a college or university student planning your career in the industry or just starting to think about your future, these mentorship sessions will help you the chance to virtually meet with leading professionals to get great career advice and learn about exciting career pathways.    

The next session takes place November 9, sign up today

Get ready for your future in food!

Over the next several months, Food and Beverage Ontario will be providing free career mentorship and virtual career fairs through our partners, FoodGrads and Food Processing Skills Canada. Tell us you’re interested by filling in the form.

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