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Month: March 2016

How To Get Your Dream Summer Job

GEMinar 6 was all about the prepping for interviews and landing the job. It was hosted by GEM mentor Jenna Claires, who gave a wonderful presentation, which involved many activities like; drawing your interview outfit, and interview role play. This served by giving us a better understanding of the situations, and the activities that will help us remember the tips for longer.

We might as well make use of the two months we have off from school to get a summer job, and work experience. The question is, how do you get a job, when you have little work experience? Getting a job can take months of preparation, and requires a lot of attention to the smallest of details. Everything from the shoes you wear to an interview, and to the last line on your resume says something about you.

Resume and cover letters: One of the first things you’ll need to get a job, is a good resume. A good resume will contain a brief description highlighting your objective and the skills you can use to achieve it. It also shows the employer what you have to offer and should be unique as it is at the top of the page.

First Impressions: Arrive on time, and be prepared. Bring a pen, and a note-pad, a portfolio of your work, and a list of your references. Also give a firm handshake, and maintain an appropriate level of eye-contact.

Formalities: It’s important to send a Thank-you letter or e-mail, to your interviewer. Thank them for their time, and when they do receive your letter or e-mail, they will be reminded of you again.

Interview Outfit: Give yourself plenty of time to get ready for the interview. It may even help if you have your outfit picked out and ironed beforehand. Stick to neutral coloured, and modest clothes. Perfume is not recommended, but deodorant is.

Prepare for the Interview: Have someone ask you mock questions that you have to answer on the spot. This way you’ll have a better understanding of what kind of questions to expect, and how to respond under pressure.

If you’re planning on getting a summer job, it is in your best interest to get started as soon as possible. Use apps like the Workin App, and check job postings on LinkedIn, Jobposting.ca, and Youth Employment Services.

AND BIG THANK-YOU to Marc Anthony for the hair product SWAG! We’ll look and smell good at our interviews!

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

How to help your mentee deal with job rejection

At GEM, we believe that young women should be ambitious and unafraid to go after their dream job. As many of us know, ambitious people often face a lot of rejection before they land in a place they want to be. Learning to deal with job rejection is an important part of a young woman’s professional development.

With summer fast approaching, our GEM girls have started searching for summer jobs. Mentors play an important role in all stages of their mentee’s job search, from helping to prepare for the search to dealing with job rejection to celebrating success. Here are some ways to help your mentee deal with job rejection.

Validate her feelings

Many high school students searching for their first summer job may have never faced job rejection before. Being rejected can really hurt, especially the first time it happens. It’s important to let your mentee know that it’s okay to feel down. Interviewing can be very tiring and it’s easy to feel like giving up after not getting the job you wanted. Remind your mentee that she’s not alone; a 2014 Times Higher Education poll found that students apply for 12 jobs on average before getting their first role. Almost everyone goes through job rejection a few times in their lives!

Help her put her rejection into perspective

A high school student may have difficulty seeing the bigger picture, especially if this is her first attempt at getting a job. Remind your mentee that job interview outcomes are not a measure of her success or her professional growth. Interview decisions are made based on all kinds of reasons that may have nothing to do with the interviewee. Tell your mentee that she should measure her success based on her own goals and accomplishments unrelated to the outcome of a job interview.

If you can, share your own story of job rejection with your mentee to help her put her situation in perspective. Emphasize the fact that you continued to learn and grow professionally after the rejection and eventually ended up where you wanted to be. It just takes a bit of resilience and patience!

Talk about next steps

The most important part of dealing with a job rejection is to learn from the experience and continue moving forward. Encourage your mentee to request feedback from the interviewer so she knows what she needs to work on. Although many interviewers will not provide detailed feedback, it’s worth a shot!

Start talking to your mentee about her plan B (or C or D or E!) and discuss how she is going to prepare for her next interview. It’s important to stay positive and energized during a job search. After all, when one door closes, another one opens!

Sarah McNeil is a volunteer with GEM, a recent graduate from Mount Alison University and is currently pursuing her diploma in Corporate Communications at Seneca. She is an avid traveller, photographer and writer. Sarah has seen the power of mentorship in her own life and is thrilled about the opportunity to give back at GEM. Follow her on Twitter: @sarahleamc

Shadeism: A conversation with director Nayani Thiyagarajah

 At the end of last year, GEM hosted a private film screening of ‘Shadeism: Digging Deeper’; a documentary by Toronto-based director and film-maker Nayani Thiyagarajah. We invited Nayani along with executive producer Muna Ali and post-production & associate producer Camaro West for an intimate Q&A session with our GEMgirls and staff after the screening and chatted about teamwork, travel and the role of documentary film-making in creating positive impact and social change. Here, we sat down with Nayani to learn a bit more in depth about her process, challenges and motivations:

A: Tell us a bit about your background and inspiration for Shadeism.

N: This issue of skin tone, of certain shades being considered “better” than others, was never missing from conversation while growing up. Though we did not have a name to call it then, we could feel its presence in dialogue amongst family and friends. With Shadeism, I pulled from an issue that was pre-existing, one that has haunted ours and other communities for centuries. It is deeply embedded in the psyche of too many people, a direct result of colonial histories, and neo-colonial systems and structures. Moved by the challenging experiences of family members and friends, my reflections on these systems and structures that influence and often dictate so many of our ideas and “ideals”, and a desire for something better for all of us, I decided to begin work on this film, which would hopefully unearth new conversations, and inspire transformative, healing dialogue of varying degrees. In 2010, while I was finishing up my undergraduate degree in broadcasting as the Ryerson University School of Journalism, a team of incredible classmates and I moved forward on creating a short documentary, which aimed to take an introductory look at this issue. Through our research, we found a name for this: shadeism. This word shadeism (also known as colorism) describes the discrimination based on skin tone, which exists amongst members of the same community, creating a ranking of a person’s individual worth based on shade. Since publicly releasing that film online five years ago, we worked on the feature doc follow-up, which was completed in 2015.

A: What was the most significant connection you drew from the personal experiences and cultural perspectives of everyone you interviewed?

N: First, that the majority of indigenous peoples and people of colour across the world did not escape the wrath of violent colonial rule for centuries, and that this history is sadly something that connects us both then and now.

Second, that though we share similar issues and challenges as a result of painful histories, we cannot forget both the stark differences between the experiences of different communities of colour and the subtle nuances between the experiences members of the same communities. Yes, many of our ancestors experienced colonialism. And yes, today many of us face racism and various forms of oppression. But there were and still key differences in the kinds of violence and pain we experience, based on key factors including race, gender, and religion. We also, in other communities of colour, participate in and contribute to anti-Blackness and anti-Indigeneity. As such, we have much work to do when it comes to challenging racism and discrimination within communities of colour and indigenous communities, so that we can be better allies and nurture more solid ground for solidarity.

And lastly, that all women-identified folks continue to experience a disproportionate amount of violence in many forms, based on gender, race, shade, class, etc. The threat of ongoing violence is the saddest and often most common thing we share.

A: What were the biggest challenges you faced in the production process of Shadeism and how did you overcome them?

N: Budget. The budget is always rising. You always seem to need more money. New costs always come up. And you have to make hard decisions and challenging choices based on budget, or lack thereof. Especially as independent filmmakers doing this thing for the first time, when folks are waiting to see what you can do. First-time filmmaking is a necessary challenge – it prepares you and builds you up, bringing you closer to the filmmaker that you were meant to be, who works with the learning curves, while still finding ways to bring a fresh lens to filmmaking and going against the grain where necessary.

Ethics. As a filmmaker working on a documentary project, you have to keep checking in with yourself and your team, to make sure your approach to filmmaking remains ethical and honest. To manipulate the words and stories of those featured in your film is very easy through editing. There is a fine line and you need to stay committed to telling the truth. Nothing is worth altering what is intended by those who are courageous enough to contribute to your film in the first place. There is no “better” story than a true story. Stick to the truth and it will never steer you in the wrong direction.

Impostor Syndrome. As a first-time filmmaker, – and I’m sure even as seasoned filmmakers – it’s easy to feel like an “impostor.” It’s easy to second-guess yourself. To wonder why you are doing the work you’re doing. To question your own capacity and right to be a storyteller. To feel like a “fake” even. I had to keep telling myself that I wasn’t perfect and that no one was expecting me to be. I had to remind myself constantly that I was still learning. I had to check in with myself throughout the past five years of working on this film and reassure myself that my intention, vision, and talent make a formidable trio. That I have enough in me to carry me through and keep learning, so that I only prove to become a stronger storyteller by continuing to practice my craft over time.

A: What’s next for Shadeism?

N: We are preparing for a 2016 university/college tour across North America, while also exploring licensing and distribution options with public broadcasters and online streaming platforms.

A: Your perspectives on what role you think documentaries play in creating positive social change.

N: Documentaries call us to question what is. In the 24/7 news cycle world that we live in, where we are saturated with stories, moving so quick that we most often cannot keep up with everything, documentaries ask us to sit down, make time, and be thoughtful with any given subject matter. They ask us to look more closely at our world and its people. I think the role of documentary films, and any films for that matter, is to spark something in its viewers. Not every film is going to change the world. Not every film will even change every person who sees it. But what films have the power to do is challenge us, move us, affect us in ways that inspire hope, care, critique, and perhaps even a feeling of urgency to do something. I wouldn’t necessarily reference to this power as the role of documentaries or film. but a result of them. Filmmakers, like painters and poets and and dancers and directors are all artists at the end of the day. I don’t know if all of us create because we think that our work will change the world. But what I do know is that we create because we feel. Our feelings move us to create work that questions, that challenges, that affects, that says something. And I think what is truly magical is that which is born out of our own feelings has the capacity and potential to spark feelings, similar or otherwise, in another person.

A: What advice would you give to our GEMgirls who are interested in pursuing a career in film and/or the arts?

N: Trust your vision. Believe that if something came to you, it came to you for a reason. Trust your work. Believe that if you are doing the work, things will work out as they are meant to. Trust the struggles. Remember there are learning curves everywhere along the road, and that the struggles are also part of the story. Trust the process. Make peace with the fact that the process rarely goes as planned, but it always leads you to exactly where you need to go. Trust yourself. Be kind, be tender, and be patient with yourself. You are everything you need – believe that with all your being!

Learn more about the documentary film Shadeism: Digging Deeper on their page here.

Mentorship Tips: How to help your mentee land a summer job

The weather is warming up, final exams are approaching and summer is just around the corner. For most high school students, the end of the school year means the start of a summer job. In cities like Toronto, jobs can be competitive and difficult to find, especially for high school students. Here are some ways you can help your mentee prepare for her summer job search:

1. Help her think outside the box.

Your mentee may be tempted to return to that retail or restaurant job she’s had for a few summers now. But, remind her that summer jobs are a great way to check out an industry she may be interested in. Is she an avid reader or writer? Encourage her to drop off her resume at some bookstores. Does she want to improve her leadership skills? She could apply to work as a camp counsellor. Help her think of creative ways to build the skills and experiences she’s looking for.

2. Tap into the hidden job market.

A lot of jobs aren’t advertised. They go to the manager’s daughter or to the teenager who just happened to drop off her resume at the moment the employer decided to look for some help. Do you have a friend or family memberwho may need an extra set of hands in their small business? Think about how you may be able to connect your mentee to a potential employer and encourage her to look for other connections, such as through a teacher or guidance councillor at school.

3. Cover letter and resume help.

Your mentee may have never written a cover letter before. A little help from a mentor can go a long way. Make sure that her resume contains keywords from the job description and that the cover letter is addressed to a real person (none of this ‘to whom it may concern’ business!) Also, help her brainstorm any experiences she might have left out of her resume, such as swimming lessons, a soccer club, or working on the yearbook – all experience counts!

4. Practice the interview.

Helping your mentee practice interviewing is one of the best ways to help her prepare for her job search. Interviewing can be difficult and intimidating, for teens and adults. Write down and rehearse some questions and answers together. While she practices, make sure that she comes across as confident and enthusiastic about the job she’s applying for.

5. Don’t forget a Social Insurance Number!

If your mentee has never had a summer job, she may not know what a SIN card is or how to get one. If she doesn’t have a SIN card, there are instructions on how to get one on this website.

Searching for summer jobs can be overwhelming for a high school student. A little encouragement can make a huge difference for your mentee!

Sarah McNeil is a volunteer with GEM, a recent graduate from Mount Alison University and is currently pursuing her diploma in Corporate Communications at Seneca. She is an avid traveller, photographer, and writer. Sarah has seen the power of mentorship in her own life and is thrilled about the opportunity to give back at GEM. Follow her on Twitter: @sarahleamc

March Break. Are you bored yet? Ideas to make the most of it

March Break: a much needed time off from high-school. The obvious thing to do during these 120-hours of freedom is to sleep in and relax. But in order to make the most of your March break, you have to do the most. There are little distractions, like school, homework, and extra-curricular during the break, so the opportunity is ideal for getting things done.

University/College Campus touring:  If you are going to spend more than a year at one school, it is in your best interest to tour the campus. Taking tours will also help you learn about the resources, and events available on the campuses, before you start classes. Most schools hold open houses during March break, so high school students can attend.

Catch up with the newest episodes: Normally I would never recommend binge watching TV shows due to how time consuming they can be, but for this one time, I’m making an exception. I’m sure we can all relate to being several episodes behind due to real life obligations. It’s alright if you take just one day to stay in, make some popcorn, and watch some Netflix.

Staycation: You only have one week off, so why not go and see all of the Toronto and nearby attractions that you’ve never seen. Maybe a day at Ripley’s Aquarium, or talk some friends into heading to Niagara Falls?  We all look forward to getting out of our normal routines, so make the most of it and act like a tourist in our fantastic city.

Make that Appointment: I happen to be one of those people that always puts off making appointments.  Make that doctors or dentist appointment, and while you’re at it that hair appointment too, because if we’re all being honest, those split-ends need to go.

Try A New Recipe: One of my favourite things to do is to try new recipes. Usually the outcome is worth the pain you go through. One of my favourite things to make are dessert or snacks. If you’re into really sweet, and chewy cookies, try this recipe. http://allrecipes.com/recipe/9589/chewy-coconut-cookies/

Volunteer: In case you’re not doing anything, and have time to spare, there are many places looking for volunteers. A quick Google search can find you plenty of kids’ camps and workshops, who will love the extra help. It’s also a great way to finish your 40 volunteer hours requirement for school.

Don’t forget to make time for your family and friends. March break is the perfect time to tick things off your checklist, so don’t waste a moment.

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