It's amazing where a cup of coffee can take you. Even New York. That's what student intern Prabhjot Mukkar found when he literally gave an elevator pitch to a senior executive at RBC.

Mukkar had just finished a session in which young people at the bank meet with top leaders over coffee, organized through its RBC4Students hub on the Ten Thousand Coffees social media platform.

“I saw an executive I wanted to talk to leaving the room for her next meeting, so I quickly followed her to the elevator,” recounts Mukkar. “We talked in the elevator, and then she invited me out at her floor and we kept talking. She became one of the reasons, along with several other coffee chats, that I became aware of an internship opportunity in New York with RBC Capital Markets, so I applied and then interviewed for it.”

These conversations are insightful — not only do I get ideas about how we can unlock the potential of young people to help them thrive, they offer suggestions about how RBC can innovate to help our clients thrive.

- Zabeen Hirji, Chief Human Resources Officer

That’s what Ten Thousand Coffees is all about at RBC – making face-to- face connections and gaining insights that can help young people launch their careers. “It’s a unique opportunity to bridge the gap between students and leaders, as well as for our young people to engage with others across the organization through this digital platform,” says Brien Convery, Director, Enterprise Campus Recruitment.

The bank set up the RBC Café — RBC4Students hub on the Toronto-based site in June 2016 to help some of the 5,000 students and young people it brings in annually, on internships, co-ops and other opportunities. “We’re the first and only bank that’s on the platform,” says Convery.

RBC participants include students, young people already employed at the bank, managers and senior executives. New members set up a profile and describe their backgrounds, interests and goals, and can then invite others for coffee, or be invited. There is also a matching system that automatically recommends possibilities for meetings.

Convery says the first contact tends to be a virtual chat, followed by a face-to- face meeting over coffee. Senior leaders usually meet with young people in small groups.

“People say they want to network, but what we find is that when it comes to actually picking up the phone or sending that email, it doesn’t always happen,” says Convery. “We found that by giving people this platform, we’ve been quite successful in making it a positive experience, not only for our students but for our managers and our leaders.”

That was true for Zabeen Hirji, RBC’s Chief Human Resources Officer. “This summer I had a coffee chat with 10 summer and co-op students on the terrace of Royal Bank Plaza in Toronto,” she says. “I was energized by the conversations, just as I am by students and recent grads I meet at RBC and in the community. They are curious, serial learners and want to make a difference through the work they do. These conversations are insightful – not only do I get ideas about how we can unlock the potential of young people to help them thrive, they offer suggestions about how RBC can innovate to help our clients thrive.”

Mukkar, who is studying financial economics and computer science at Western University while working summers and part-time at RBC, has been an enthusiastic user of the system since it started. “During the summer, at least once a week I went for coffee in Toronto,” he says. “And for other locations, you can use Skype. I feel empowered to make connections with people that I can reach out to anytime.”

Mukkar is very impressed with the environment at RBC, where leaders are always on the lookout for top talent. And the bank’s openness to helping young people make new connections is very special, he says. “It can lead to some amazing things you never dreamt of.”

Reproduced with permission from the announcement magazine for Canada's Top 100 Employers (2017), published November 7, 2016 in The Globe and Mail. © 2016 Mediacorp Canada Inc. and The Globe and Mail. All rights reserved.

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