Department of English

University of Toronto

Skills for the Real World


2nd Backpack to Briefcase Event: Skills for the Real World - Conversations at Massey College,  January 21, 2010, Massey College
Common Room

The second B2B was an opportunity for students to learn about the skills that are needed to succeed in the business world.  Through presentations, questions and answers, three guest speakers were able to help the students identify the skills they already had and those they will need to acquire. The guest alumni discussed how they were able to use their degrees to further their careers, sometimes in unexpected and innovative ways. Also, a career counsellor was present for the evening, to explain about the services available on campus to help that are there to help students find and get a job.


Background information:
Transitioning into the working world is never an easy task, and in today’s economy, it can be even more daunting. Students are entering a very dynamic and unstable job market and many feel ill-equipped to succeed. What many don’t realize is how their skills and their ability to think are the mainstays that will help them to weather even the most uncertain of times.

The topic of this session was “Skills for the Real World.” What are your transferable skills? How can a degree in the humanities help you in business? Speakers were asked to answer two questions:
  1. What skills have you used the most throughout your career?
  2. How has your U of T degree helped you?


Susan Courtney (BA 1989 Cinema Studies)
V.P. Group Media Director, Starcom MediaVest Group
After graduating from U of T with a dual major in English and Cinema Studies, Susan began a career in advertising media buying and planning 20 years ago, working in progressively senior media positions at Mediacom, PHD and Cossette Media, managing telco, financial and CPG clients. After 10 years, a change in career resulted in a move from media agency to media vendor. Susan joined Torstar Media Group holding increasingly senior media sales roles in multiple Torstar properties, including leading the national advertising sales team as National Sales Director of the Toronto Star with a speciality within the telecommunication and financial categories. In her current role at SMG as VP Group Media Director, Susan has returned to the agency business after 9 years to lead two new business wins - Globalive Wireless (Wind Mobile) and TD Bank Financial Group.

Lisa Khoo (BA4 1989 History)
CBC National TV News, “The Current”
Lisa Khoo is Senior Producer for CBC News: Live Desk where she leads a team of producers planning and executing the News Department's coverage of top breaking news stories across all three platforms—television, radio and online. Prior to this, Lisa was senior producer for CBC Radio’s The Current for three years, where her work garnered awards for the show’s coverage of the Dawson College Shooting and Mellissa Fung kidnapping. She was previously at CBC News Online as senior producer for current affairs. From 2000-2003 she was based in the UK, where she wrote magazine features and a book on the Internet and field produced for CBC National TV News. From 1993-97 she produced specials and live coverage as part of Newsworld’s Live Unit including the O.J. Simpson trial and the Quebec Referendum. She was based in Washington from 1991-92 where she covered the Clinton election and Hurricane Andrew. Lisa was also a writer and lineup editor for CBC Toronto and Newsworld. Lisa is a sessional lecturer at University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus where she teaches in the Media Studies Programme.

William Morassutti (BA 1991 English)
Managing Director, Blank Angus Media (Toro Magazine)
William Morassutti is an executive with over 20 years experience in traditional and digital media. Co-founder and Managing Director of Black Angus Media, he is also one of the founding members of the national and international award-winning TORO Magazine. Quick to identify emerging trends, he spearheaded TORO’s re-launch as the web-only, the flagship property of Black Angus Media. His front-line production experience in advertising and broadcasting rounds out a diverse skill set, positioning him at the forefront of creative executives carving out new distribution channels and revenue streams in a rapidly shifting, convergence-driven marketplace.

Hana El Kaissi (M.Ed)
Career Counsellor
Hana has worked at the Career Centre for over 8 years assisting a diverse range of students with their career and employment goals. Hana graduated from OISE/UT with a Master of Education in Adult Education and Counselling Psychology. Previously, Hana worked in a variety of community and private settings helping a wide range of clientele with career and work issues.

Working your Degree:
Whether your degree has direct relevance to your career or whether it’s a long stretch to find even a remote connection, there are many ways that postsecondary education in any discipline can support your work in any field. We recently had an orthodontist with a Math degree talk to our students about how his basic understanding of numbers and mathematics made dealing with precise measurements second nature.

Many skills are first developed while pursuing a university degree: analytical skills, problem solving, critical analysis, decision-making, etc. So while some of the “content skills” (see below) may not be transferable, it’s likely that much of what you learned on campus—including how to drink and stay up all night (it’s called “networking”)—has helped you in your career success. As students approach graduation, it would be heartening for them to know that they really are learning something beyond the curriculum!

Skills can be categorized into three basic groups:

Content skills
These are the skills that are unique to a job and constitute a requirement for the position. For example, to be a career counselor, one requires counseling skills and without which you would not be hired for that position. Content skills are acquired through education, training, hobbies, volunteer activities, and lived experiences.

Transferable skills
Transferable skills are those skills that can be transferred from one job to another. These include communication skills, team work, project management expertise, problem solving, organizational skills, analytical skills, critical thinking, assessment, etc.

Personal attributes
Personal attributes or characteristics are those qualities that are uniquely yours. You use them daily in your interactions with people. Examples of these skills are your attention to detail, reliability, responsiveness, visionary perspective, autonomy, independence, integrity, patience, tact, flexibility, etc. Depending on the kind of job you do, your personal characteristics will determine how well you fit within an organization.

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