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Hatching grad careers

Sitting in Second Cup at the Scotia Plaza in downtown Toronto, I'm slightly nervous and excited to meet my inspiration for this week's column. Lauren Friese and I have been casually e-mailing each other and realized that we have a very similar view on the 'graduate situation' in Toronto.

"I've lived the problem from a student perspective, I've seen a similar concept work abroad and I know that I can make it work in Canada," she tells me.

She's an economics graduate from Queen's University and in 2006 graduated from London School of Economics (Economic History) with a Master of Science (MSc) degree. Today she is the founder of a new website that recently launched, TalentEgg.ca and sits on the CATA Women in Technology Toronto Board.

"I remember sitting at the Queen's campus bar on a January afternoon of my final semester and chatting with my friends about what we were going to do after graduation." She recalls being shocked to learn that most were frantically trying to make last-minute decisions.

It was at that moment Friese discovered there was a real problem. Every year hundreds of fresh-faced grads bearing their shiny new degree certificates and exceptional employability are faced with the same situation: how do I get a real job? Friese realized there was no efficient way out there to find meaningful employment.

"When I started digging deeper, I realized that there is a big problem on the employer side too. Without the resources to visit every campus in Canada, a majority of companies across the country are screaming for talent with the analytical and quick learning skills that students and new grads possess. It was identifying this two-sided problem that led me to create Talent Egg."

"I think her idea will fill a gap for smaller- to medium-size companies that do not have a fully fledged campus recruiting presence or team," says Julie Crawford, who met Lauren through their joint involvement on the CATA Women in Technology Toronto Board three months ago.

"Her enthusiasm and commitment to the project are outstanding. She knows the problems inside out, having personally been in the situation, and has demonstrated creativity in her approach to the solution," says Crawford. "I think she is positioned to be a leading woman in Toronto technology at a very young age."

At 24, Friese had to quickly learn how to start her own business. She found that building credibility was her first challenge, however employers quickly realized the potential her website had and how it could help the success of their companies.

"I can honestly say that I get up each morning and look forward to going to work. I'm very goal-oriented and have a very short attention span, so running a business really suits me. One day I'll be on the phone, talking to employers about getting involved with the site. The next, I'll be writing a press release, or shooting a video for YouTube starring eggs wearing ties."

As the concept developed so did her marketing material. Having a professional design to take to potential employers gave a clear example of what she was talking about, and its quality.

"At the end of the day, if you've got a product that people need and want, the biggest challenge you'll face is gaining the opportunity to educate your audience. Aside from being a unique market offering in Canada, one of the things that makes Talent Egg really stand out and really appealing is its emphasis on original, fantastic design."

Friese is looking forward to working with grads and employers to further develop her website and kick start careers.

"My main advice to students leaving university and embarking on careers is to take your time and a few chances."

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