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Laval MBA moonlights as an international trade agent

Salomé Thériault is an MBA student at Laval University in Quebec City.

Salomé Thériault is an MBA student at Laval University in Quebec City, specializing in marketing. The 22-year-old Acadian from New Brunswick did her undergraduate studies at Mount Allison University in English but opted to take her MBA at Laval partly to return to her mother tongue. Along with her full-time studies, Salomé is volunteering as an agent with the university's Trade Missions, a not-for-profit organization that gives companies across Quebec an opportunity to develop their businesses in an international setting. This is her second blog post in a series.

Beep! Beep! Beep! It is currently 5:45 a.m. (the joys of being a trade agent). I am slowly getting ready for our 7 a.m. meeting. It is still dark out in freezing Quebec City. I put on my business clothes, grab my coffee and leave the house. I get to class, just in time for our meeting. Our overly cheerful co-ordinators greet us, and the meeting starts. The most exciting part of getting up this early is to find out how many new contracts we have signed.

I never in my life considered being a trade agent. To be honest, when applying to become a trade agent for Laval University's Trade Missions, I was not expecting any of this. I just knew that I was singing up for a lot of work.

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So far, so good. I love it. My Missions program is definitely the greatest part of my MBA. It allows me to acquire real work experience, pushes my boundaries and builds my confidence. It also made me realize this new interest of mine for business in an international context. In the future, I would love combining my passion for marketing, fashion and travel. Working abroad would be a dream come true.

My studies at Mount Allison University, Parsons School of Design in Paris and now Laval are allowing me to build a strong profile to achieve this goal.

The next day, I need to be at school for 8:30 a.m. sharp. I will spend four hours making cold calls for Trade Missions, which is part of our weekly tasks. We are selling our services to Quebec companies that want to conduct business overseas (specifically Turkey, Brazil and Chile). To the agents who are skillful at making those calls, there is only one word to be said: "Amazing!"

This week, I am fairly lucky. I have lined up three meetings with Quebec companies. However, office work is not always that fun. Sometimes, I get zero meetings, which can be disappointing. A good business development employee needs to be able to sell his or her product or service in order to be successful. (I guess this goes without saying.) When we have a good week, our team can meet up to 65 companies across the province.

Meetings are carefully prepared, research has to be done, chief executive officers are met, reports on meetings are completed and additional information is transmitted to the company. Sometimes we meet with the CEO a second or even third time. The purpose of these meetings is to sign a contract with companies to represent them. There are 50 of us trade agents in the Missions program and we work as a team. A few weeks ago, I helped one of the other agents find a contract, which I am very proud of. However, time flies and I still haven't found mine this week. I am not worried, though. This is how business works. You sometimes get 30 people who say no before getting one yes.

Once you are a trade agent for Laval University, your life is dedicated to: first, the missions; second, the academic work; and third, to part-time jobs. But this is good. This is real life: extremely busy and extremely rewarding.

Salomé can be reached through her LinkedIn profile or salome.noel-theriault.1@ulaval.ca

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