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Month: January 2016

Mentorship + Art

Last weekend, two of our GEMgirls and their mentors attended The Mirvish performance of The Phantom of the Opera at the Princess of Whales Theatre. These tickets are a part of our unique Arts & Culture Program. The program, sponsored by the Phelan Foundation, purchases tickets to cultural events in the city for our mentees to attend with their mentor.

After the performance last weekend we received photos (see above) and an email from our program mentor, Jenna Smith that told GEM what a special event this had been for mentors and mentees to relax, to play together, and to bond.

“I wanted to start today off by thanking you all so much for the opportunity to take our girls to see Phantom of the Opera…I was so excited to be doing an activity with her where we could just be two good friends going to see a show together. The show was absolutely and unbelievably fantastic. From the music, to the acting/singing, the design of the set and special effects blew all of our expectations away! (Although I think Zarah was a little heartbroken…that the Phantom didn’t get to be with his true love in the end, she was really on team Phantom to win the love of Christine!) We had an amazing time, and I can’t thank you enough for the tickets. It was a beautiful afternoon and made me realize the importance of balancing a mentor/mentee relationship with work and play because it really allowed for me to appreciate her as my GEMgirl even more than I already do!”

This year was the first year at GEM where we have had resources to give away cultural event tickets to our mentees and their mentors. At GEM we believe in art as a social connector, and now we’re seeing that in action. So far our mentor and mentee pairs have attended a private film screening of an independent film called Shadeism, the National Ballet’s Romeo and Juliette, and The Phantom of the Opera. Through watching the pairs that have attended these events we have noticed the improved quality and depth of their relationships. A good mentorship, is like any other relationship, it requires trust, respect, and friendship. And we’re seeing our arts program help in fostering that friendship.





Exam Writing Tips

Years of exam writing has prepped me for this moment: the day I get to share all my exam writing wisdom with you! Kidding. The truth? I didn’t know I had tips. That was until my brother called me a few weeks ago, panicked, half an hour before his high-pressure exam asking for help. This is what I shared with him moments before his exam (he passed!). Note: if you haven’t started studying, first check out our Study Tips blog.

  1. Stop Panicking & Put on Some Gangsta Rap. Yes, it’s stressful, but getting yourself  “In The Zone” will serve you better than a downward spiral. Put in your headphones, turn up some Biebs (or whatever your flavour) and get into it.
  2. Put Away the Notes. You aren’t going to learn anything new in the next half an hour. Studying right up until your exam will just cloud your head. Put down the notes, I repeat, put down the notes!
  3. Don’t Talk to Anyone. Stay away from the other people panicking—not cool energy. You don’t want to be picking up wrong answers from friends or classmates and clogging your mind before going into your exam. It’s okay to be rude right now.
  4. Skip What You Don’t Know. The first time through the exam, skip the questions you don’t know. Answering what you do know will keep you feeling confident and flowing. Come back to those answers you skipped after you’ve worked your way through the exam. Now that you’ve done a first-read you may pick up clues to help you answer those pesky Q’s
  5. Cover the Answers (Multiple Choice). Multiple-choice is designed to throw you off.  Answer the question, in your head, before you look at the prompts and select the answer that best reflects your initial thought.
  6. Get to the Point (Long Answer). Graders can read through filler language. Use key words that will get you marks, bullet your answers where you can. If the passage is graded out of five, be sure to write down five points to your answer.
  7. Stay Calm. You’ve read our Study Tips blog. You’ve prepared. You got this! Stay focused. Remain calm. It will be over shortly.

This article is written by Cassandra Hammett, Project Manager at Girls E-Mentorship. Cass loves to write, loves to laugh and hates when people don’t have a plan. She keeps GEM running like a well oiled machine and always has a helping hand and a cup of tea for anyone on the team that needs it.

Time Management for 2016

Stepping into 2016 was refreshing; inspired new ideas, ambitious goals and rejuvenated energy. That is, until I opened my inbox. GEM also has ambitious and exciting plans for 2016, and two weeks away from GEM headquarters can really fill up your To-Do list quickly. By day two into the first workweek back, I felt overwhelmed and scattered. As a project manager, the goal of my role is to be organized; I am managing after all. So where does an organizer turn when they’re feeling disorganized? I opened up the GEM handbook, plugged in Time Hackers podcast, and scoured the Internet. Here are my top five tips to help you manage your time and keep on track for your 2016 goals;

1. Wake Up Earlier

I get up at 5:30 every day—that’s a lie, I get up at 5:46 every day. I get my workout in, drink my smoothie, check my calendar. That wake up time might seem early for some – it did for me for the longest time—but it means I have more hours in my day. As much as you plan your day, the unexpected always happens; you run into a friend you haven’t seen in a while and get chatting for 30 minutes, you have an important email come through that you need to address, your boss/teacher gives you an unexpected assignment, and before you know it, your well planned day gets high jacked by The External. Waking up early allows me to get in what I need to do before the day runs away on me.  

2. Triage Tasks

I write a To-Do list weekly, and daily. I know it may seem a bit redundant, but taking a few minutes to write a list helps me manage my time for the day/week and keeps me focused on tasks. Seeing all my to-do’s written down, also helps me recognize what is most important/pressing. This is the triage part. I prioritize tasks based on immediacy; this may be deadlines, looming meetings, or the most time consuming. When I tackle the most immediate tasks I feel less pressure and stress knowing that I’m hacking them off the list. And does it ever feel good to strike off items on your list!  

3. Put it In your Calendar

I live by my calendar. It is the most used app on my phone and laptop. Without fail, I check my calendar before I go to bed and right when I wake up (nothing’s changed while I’m sleeping, so it may seem strange, but I like to know what’s in store for me that day). I schedule everything; meetings, GEM events, coffee with friends, phone calls to my mom, emails I need to send. I self-deadline. Putting it in my calendar holds me accountable to my intentions and helps those around me keep on time too – don’t tell me you didn’t think I send calendar invites to my friends for coffee dates? 

4. Unplug

Yes! The saving grace most of my days. My inbox runs my world. I’m sure it does for many of you too. This is where all the traffic of my job flows through and how I keep connected to everyone. But, in order to keep on top of all my assignments, sometimes I need to disconnect. I will shut down my email for an hour at a time, just to plough through some work. Not letting email, text messages or social media distract me, means that I keep focused on tasks. This was a lesson I learned in my first role out of university. New to the workforce, I felt I needed to be on top of every email immediately. Responding to every email popping up on my screen, sometimes meant a 30-minute distraction, and by then, my mind had shifted so much from the original task. Being able to unplug throughout the day– while still responding within a reasonable time—enables me to be more efficient and successful.

5. Keep a Clear Mind

The enemy of productivity is anxiety/stress (which leads to procrastination). We’ve been there. I was there just yesterday. You’ve been sitting at your desk all day writing assignment after assignment, sending emails, running to meetings, it 4 o’clock in the afternoon and you realize you haven’t even eaten today! When you’re in this frazzled daze you feel like everything needs to get done now. Well, now, probably isn’t when you’re going to get your best work done. When I’m feeling most overwhelmed I take a break. I go for a walk, grab a coffee, chat with my colleagues or do something mundane from my list (think dusting the office). Allowing myself to just have a minute helps to control the crazys that we feel when we’re overwhelmed. You can’t be on all the time, and it is important to shake the energy, clear your mind, and refocus throughout your day.

This article is written by Cassandra Hammett, Project Manager at Girls E-Mentorship. Cass loves to write, loves to laugh and hates when people don’t have a plan. She keeps GEM running like a well oiled machine and always has a helping hand and a cup of tea for anyone on the team that needs it.



Tips for Dealing with Procrastination

Our time is a limited resource. We all prefer to spend our time on activities that are fun and enjoyable.  And we all put off doing the work that does not interest us or we find daunting. We are all procrastinators. However, unexciting projects still need to be completed. To avoid last minute stress there are a few helpful tips that help me to deal with procrastination.

GET MOTIVATED I find that the hardest part is getting started. Lack of motivation to begin a project is what causes us to keep delaying it. I try to think, “Why do I have to do this?”. Are you striving for good grades? What will happen if the project doesn’t get completed? Figure out what motivates you and use that to your advantage.

REMOVE DISTRACTIONS What disrupts your workflow? If I’m particularly distracted, I try to identify what am I using to distract me.  Maybe it’s social media, or TV, or interruptions from my family and friends. I find a place where I can work, without distractions. Sometimes it’s my office, sometimes it’s a local library, coffee shop or community space.  Whatever you choose, it should be easily accessible and provide a good work environment where you can concentrate.

CREATE A SCHEDULE I try to tackle the job, one piece at a time. I like to divide up the work to make it more manageable and I build in lots of time for review and revision. Try creating a schedule and follow through with it. Maybe you work for 20 minutes a day, or 1 hour every second day, or half a day on the weekends. Everyone’s schedule will be different. As you go, figure out what works best for you.

KEEP TRACK OF PROGRESS I like to keep a list and I check off items as they are completed. This helps to ensure the project is on track. It also provides me with positive reinforcement to keep going. You will see the work you have already accomplished and your project come closer to completion.

REWARD YOURSELF Don’t forget to take breaks.  As you track your progress and cross items off your list indulge yourself. Take time to watch your favourite show, take a walk, or any other activity that you enjoy. Reward yourself for work well done.

VPeric image

This article is written by GEM Mentor, Vanja Peric, CFA and Assistant Vice President at Bell Kearns & Associates Ltd. She’s a mentor to GEMgirl Maryam Hasam, avid traveller and loves to help others through mentorship and story telling.  


Looking back on 2015

New Year, new beginnings; or so they say. I believe it’s less about new beginnings, and more about improving what’s already there. 2015 was a relatively calm year for me, yet at the same time very eventful. My resolution for 2015 was to get out of my comfort zone, and get more invested into my future. I had a resolution to stress less, and get more involved in my school and community. My main goal was to be more confident.

The beginning of 2015 didn’t start off as well as I had hoped.  My daily routine started out pretty drab. After I completed my volunteer work every day, I only really went to school and returned home. I started off 2015 just getting out of a state of mind that was not good for me at all. I lacked a lot of self-confidence and didn’t socialize much. If you’ve even been there, you know how much of a toll that can have on your mood. I was able to start 2015 with a fresh mind, but still had a lot of work to do.

I started off by looking for a job- which by the way, is a bad idea when you have no experience- I didn’t get any jobs or even job interviews. I blamed it on my lack of experience, but it also had a lot to do with my no-good resume. Instead I worked on passing my G1, and focused on my cooperative education placement for the following school year. I worked hard on it, and was able to get a placement at Sunnybrook hospital, which I really invested some hard work for during the duration of my placement. The following summer, by recommendation of a close friend, I applied to GEM. I had no idea about the internship opportunities available, but I really wanted to get into the program, for the opportunity, and also so I would have something to do with my free time. I ended up with an amazing mentor who I love talking to. I didn’t think I would be comfortable with a mentor, and doubted it at first. But what I’ve found is that my mentor is incredibly relatable, and we have more things in common than I thought. Sometime after I got accepted into GEM, and before I met my mentor, I applied for this internship opportunity, and got it.

All of those things happened in a span of only a couple of months, and I doubted myself all the way through. I even thought I would fail my G1- even though all my friends reassured me that it was incredibly easy. Although I did have many, many successes, I also had many failures. 2015 helped me understand that it’s not about those failures; it’s about the actions you take after those failures. It’s important to not let your failures keep you down.

Tabassum Lakhi is a Creative Writing Intern at GEM and also a GEMgirl.