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How to launch a charity while being a mom

Rochelle de Goias, GEM’s Founder, was interviewed by Love, Mom on how to lead a charity that is changing the lives of high school girls in Toronto while being the mom of two little ones.  Read her full interview below.

LM: What’s a secret power you count on to keep it together?
R: “Determination. At work, I’m always thinking about a goal, for example right now, growth is top of mind. I’m singularly focused and know the team can make our charity better and bigger so we can help more people. I’m that person who to call if you have any self-doubt or if you’re having a bad day and I’ll say, ‘you can do this; you can do it with your eyes closed’. This level of motivation and intensity has allowed me to grow GEM from an idea into a reality.
I know I bring that intensity home too. I have this desire to ensure that my kids have this incredible childhood and create as many special moments as possible for them. Like so many moms, I would love them to look back on their lives and think they had the best mom. I know I stress myself out about it though. I’m really working on accepting that I can’t do everything and I have to be okay with doing what I can. I’m still getting the hang of it; I’ll stay up at night and send emails and take care some of online errands, then I’ll catch myself and shut it all down. I’m slowly figuring out the difference between being determined and doing too much.”

LM: Is launching a non-profit similar to growing a business?
R: “From the beginning, we wanted to create a charity that thought like a business. Our clients are our mentors and mentees and our investors are our donors. We’re intent on running GEM efficiently and at a low cost. For example, we have a large team of volunteers that help us reach our goals and we moved our office to the Centre for Social Innovation, a shared office space that keeps our nuts and bolts costs down.
We’re also growing the program strategically. We’ve invested a lot of time and effort on design thinking. Instead of taking a top-down approach where a goal is determined and then the steps towards that goal are created, I wanted to do it in reverse. We designed a program that began with our mentees to help us determine the goal. We spent six months consulting with local girls to discover what they needed. We also created a mentor advisory committee and asked them how we could make it easier for them to volunteer as busy working women who want to help. Then we did a pilot run, got feedback, and redesigned our approach based on what we heard. Every year we get new insights and then we tweak the program to make it better. Like any business, we have to be nimble and we can’t get stuck in one way of thinking.
The biggest difference with a traditional business, however, is that if we’re not profitable, we’re not reaching our goal of helping people. A charity relies on kindness, a compelling story and on donors and volunteers who want to make their cities and countries better. If people stopped having open hearts, a non-profit like us wouldn’t survive.”

LM: Describe a challenge you’ve had to overcome at GEM.
R: “We’re growing faster than I anticipated. It’s a good problem, but also stressful. With that growth, comes pressure to fundraise. There are a lot of girls requesting mentorship and we can only provide it for 1 in 4 girls, so we need more funding to support our programs. There are also so many areas that we want to be involved with beyond Toronto. There’s a huge need and we’re only a drop in the bucket. A part of me thought this was going to be a grass roots organization forever, and now I’m thinking about what growth looks like every day I go to work. This expansion is so exciting and the best outcome I could’ve hoped for, but naturally I wonder how am I going to manage all this while finding time to enjoy my young family?”

LM: Name a leap of faith you’ve had to take recently.
R: “Letting other people help me. When I started this, I was doing everything, then I brought in a bigger team and expanded the board.  Once I became pregnant with my second baby, my load became impossible to manage. We’ve grown to two full-time consultants (a project manager and a communications lead), a graphic designer and seven board members. Of course, I had an initial reaction to taking less of a hand’s on role. Relinquishing that kind of control took adjusting, and now I love it. I’m running the organization with women who are incredible while giving myself more time with my family.”

LM: What’s an a-ha moment that has surprised you most? 
R: “Deep down I trusted that GEM was going to help girls and I knew those girls would get to where they wanted to go. What I didn’t expect was that the community of mentors we have established would become so strong. They are incredible and like-minded women who want to hang out and create deep relationships with each other. The program gives us a chance to find out our interests, backgrounds and passions and it’s proving as valuable to the mentors as it is to the mentees.”

Interview taken from: Love, Mom.

Answering Interview Questions 101

Why do you want this job? What is your biggest weakness? How much do you expect to be paid? Chances are, you’ve been subjected to at least one of these questions at a job interview. But what is the right answer, and what happens if you can’t think of any response at all?

Don’t fret. Here is Answering Difficult Interview Questions 101.

First of all, why do recruiters ask these questions? The answer is simple: recruiters want to reduce the number of people competing for the same job. If a candidate gives them a bad answer, they may have enough of a reason to move on to someone else. On the flip side, if a candidate gives them a really good response to a tough question, it could make a lasting impression on the recruiter.

Before going into an interview, it is very helpful and effective to write down some examples and key points that you would mention when asked some common interview questions, including the tough ones. These notes do not need to be fleshed out answers because you don’t want to sound robotic as if you memorized them. You want the interview to be like a normal (though professional) conversation. Have an idea of what you want to say, but don’t script the entire interview.

To help you with that, here are some examples of the typical tough questions and how to answer them. Use these tips but make sure to let your personality shine through with each answer. Remember, authenticity is everything!

  1. Why do you want this job?

This may seem like an easy question at first, but beware: employers don’t want to hear that you want this job because you need the money (even if that’s the case). Think about what entices you about this position (not how much you get paid!). Talk about how passionate you are about the job and what the company stands for. This also shows that you did your homework and learned about the company’s values beforehand. You can also explain how you believe that this company is the right match for you. This is a great transition into explaining how you are a great match for them. Here you can speak about your experience and your specific contributions to projects you’ve been working on.

  1. What is your biggest weakness?

This is a tough interview question that is very common. Many people have a hard time answering this because though we all have our weaknesses, it’s scary telling someone that we want to work for our flaws. But the worst thing that you could do is stumble during this question and say “Hmm, this is a hard question. What am I bad at?”. Everyone is bad at something! The interviewer wants to hear an authentic answer. The key here is to “be honest, but not too honest”, as summed up by Laura McLennan, a GEM mentor who works as a recruiter at fishRecruit Inc., show self-awareness and talk about an actual flaw, but make sure it’s something that won’t “raise red flags.”

Essentially, there are two ways to do this. One is to mention a weakness that could be used as a strength. Siobhan Desroches, GEM mentor and Government Affairs & Stakeholder Relations Manager at Greater Toronto Airports Authority, shared a great example to answer this question: “I typically say that I often take the lead on projects and tend to need to have my hand involved in everything. Maybe I take too much ownership. It’s all because I care about the end result of the project. However, this can sometimes result in me burning out. I’m working on that by learning how to delegate and reminding myself to take a step back when others in the group can handle it.”

Also, note that she mentions how she is working on the flaw. This is the second great way to talk about your weaknesses. You can talk about something that you are not naturally good at, but mention how you are managing or working on it.

  1. How much do you expect to get paid?

For this one, you have to remember: recruiters don’t want to hire someone that has unrealistic salary expectations. However, they also don’t want to hire someone who underestimates themselves. In this case, vagueness is your best friend. Tell them that you would be willing to discuss this once you receive an offer for the position. If they really press the issue, mention a range that would represent the average pay for someone in that position. You could use websites like PayScale to search it up.

What happens when you’re asked a question that you really don’t know the answer to? Don’t panic! Even if you don’t know the answer to something, mention something similar that could relate. Of course, it would be less likely that you are asked a question that you can’t answer if you prepare for the interview. Here are some tips that you can use to prepare:

  • As mentioned before, writing down jot notes for some common questions is very helpful. Articulate the reasons as to why you want the job and what you bring to the table. Know how to explain the relevant experience that you have and always know how you contributed to that project/company.
  • Do research on the company and the industry as a whole. This shows initiative and that you took the time to understand the company and the position.
  • Talk to people who have that job and ask for tips and advice.
  • Speak to your mentors, as they may be able to give you tips and help you calm your nerves.
  • Think of some icebreakers that you could have to make the experience less awkward. Susan Baxter, Vice Chairman for RBC Wealth Management and keynote speaker at GEMinar Four: Getting Your Goals, mentioned that she likes to comment on the weather as soon as she enters the room to break the ice.
  • Practice answering the questions at home so that you sound articulate, but not so much that you sound robotic.

Most importantly, realize that you made to the interview stage. This means that they already know you are qualified. Now you just need to be yourself and let your personality shine. Keep calm and be confident. Believe in yourself! And if you don’t get the job, maybe it just wasn’t the right fit for you, so don’t beat yourself up over it. Learn from your mistakes and try again. I wish you the best of luck with your quest for a job, and I hope that these tips helped you.

A resume that stands out

We’ve all been there. You’re writing up your resume, maybe dropping it off somewhere, and you can’t help but think–Is my resume any different than all the others? And it’s a good question. It’s important to have a strong and effective resume since it can play a key role in helping you score that oh-so-desired job! Remember, a goal without a plan is just a wish.

The task of putting together your perfect resume can seem daunting, especially if it’s your first time doing so, but fear not! We have the perfect tips to help you out and achieve your goals!

Before we get into what you can do to make your resume fantastic, let’s start with what not to do. At GEMinar Four: Getting Your Goals the wonderful RBC panel gave us some great tips on this. The most helpful thing that the talented ladies from RBC said when asked what makes a great resume is that less is more. This doesn’t mean that you should have a minuscule resume, but make sure to keep it no longer than a page! An employer isn’t interested in flipping through pages and pages of info on you when they’ve got other resumes to look at. Another tip they gave us is to avoid things like fancy fonts or pretty paper. This takes them away from the focus–which is you! You want to highlight what makes you the best candidate for the job, not why your resume looks nicer than the rest. You also want it to be easy to read. Keep it fresh, clean, and most importantly, professional.

Although you should keep your resume professional, this doesn’t mean you should be communicating like a robot. One of the things that can make your resume stand out is the presence of human language in your document. It may not seem like a make or break aspect, but don’t overdue your industry keywords. Phrases like “I accomplished” or “I manage” will only be effective if they are used in the natural language of the document, not if they are littered all over it. This ties into your resume’s format, too. Use something modern and don’t be afraid to make it look pleasing to the eye as long it doesn’t focus more on visuals than your resume content. You want to be taken as a serious candidate.

One more tip that will prove the most beneficial to making your resume stand out is to tailor your resume to the job you’re applying to. Chances are, your employer is looking for specifics–they’ve got a vision of the candidate they want to choose. If you have certain skills/aptitudes and experience that is relevant to the job, then be sure to include that. And the same goes for the reverse. If you’ve got irrelevant information on your resume, get rid of it–there’s no room for clutter.

Lastly, let your resume tell your employer a story. Show them how far you’ve come in your career. Now, this doesn’t mean you should be submitting a biography. Organize your information so that it is effectively customized to show your growth. It should take your reader on a journey of your professional experiences and accomplishments as well as skills and knowledge. Doing this will give your employer the opportunity to see how you’ve advanced over time what you’re bringing to them.

These are just a few tips on how to make your resume stand out. Good luck on crafting that perfect resume! Keep this advice in mind and remember the basics too–don’t lie, have your contact info available, etc. Most importantly though, remember to be confident in yourself. You know what you’re capable of, GEMgirl! Get your goals!

How to build an all-star LinkedIn profile

LinkedIn is a great place to start building your personal brand. It’s an online network where you can make connections, gain access to opportunities, and research career paths! But the only way you can use LinkedIn to its fullest potential is to build a great profile! Here are some tips on how to create a great LinkedIn Profile:

HEADSHOT: Make sure your profile has a professional headshot. It’s a given fact the recruiters will most likely view your profile if it has a picture. Don’t use selfies and remember to smile!

HEADLINE: Along with your headshot, your headline is one of the first things people see. You can use your headline to tell people what you’re interested in or what you’re doing now. For example: “Aspiring Engineer,” “Business | Marketing | Operations,” or “Leading Communications and Digital Marketing Strategies.”

SUMMARY: Your summary is your chance to tell your story. It’s also known as your elevator pitch. Make sure to include:
1. Who you are (education and experience)
2. What you have done (skills and achievements)
3. Where you want to go next
4. Your career goals

To stay consistent with your personal brand, it’s recommended to have a professional email such as firstname.lastname@gmail.com.

EDUCATION: Where do you go to school? Be sure to include your extra-curricular activities, additional courses or other programs.

EXPERIENCE: Add all relevant experience to your profile! This will show recruiters what skills you already have and will also give them an insight of what types of jobs you are interested in. Think outside the box –What experiences are part of your professional brand?

RECOMMENDATIONS: Back up what you highlighted in your profile with endorsements and recommendations! Add at least 5 skills, and if you endorse other people, they will most likely endorse you back. This also gives you extra credibility. Ask your managers, teachers, mentors, and classmates to write you a recommendation to strengthen your profile.

LinkedIn is a great way to maintain contact with people and stay in touch. You never know where your network will take you! The best way to meet people is through the people you already know. Send invitations to your friends, teachers, mentors, family members, organization leaders. Always send a personalized note so they know who you are and why you want to connect with them.

Lastly, keep your profile up to date! Similar to Facebook and Instagram, you can post updates on LinkedIn too. You can showcase what you have been doing professionally, share articles and communicate with your network. There’s also a mobile app you can download so you can check LinkedIn on the go!

Photo Credits: TopResume

Roz McLean and her secrets to success

Roz McLean is an Associate at Burgundy Asset Management and was the talented speaker at our GEMinar Three. GEM interviewed her to find out her secrets to success. Here she talks about her motivations, time-management skills, and passions

-Did you always know that you wanted to work in finance when you were in high school?
-I knew that I was interested in business and economics. The difference between what I do now and what I thought it was going to be like is that the field of business and economics has a lot inside of it. People stereotype that in finance it’s just about crunching a bunch of numbers. At Burgundy, we all work in finance, theoretically. However, there are lots of different jobs you can do here. You can be in relationship management, marketing, IT, or the systems and technology department that works on finding the latest innovations and helping us achieve our goals in technology. There’s a lot more diversity in finance that I think people expect.

-At GEMinar Three, you talked about time-management to achieve our goals. How do you spend your time, balancing work and your personal lifestyle?
-Time-management came home for me when I first started studying for my CFA exam because I didn’t have enough hours in the day to do everything I wanted to do.
I had to stop doing certain things –like spend a less time with social media and with friends. It was hard not going out for dinner with my friends on Friday or Saturday night, but I got through it.
I’m most productive in the morning, so first thing when I get to the office I focus on all the thinking work I need to do, all the decisions I have to make, and all the strategy. I usually work out in the morning because my head’s clear, and I can get all that done. Then in the afternoon, I do more mechanical “I just need to get it done” tasks. I also make sure that I go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time every day. Typically, during the week, I go to bed pretty early. You feel more refreshed when you sleep for the same amount of time every night. And I spend Sunday reading. So any reading I want to do during the week, rather than letting it take up my day, I just do it on Sunday morning.
Another part of it is a little bit of multi-tasking. I stopped running as much, and I started working out on the bike, and if I’m working out on a stationary bike at the gym, I can read at the same time as biking. So I’m working out and reading the news at the same time, which normally would take up two different chunks of time.

-How can you work smarter?
-Learning to work smarter is important in order to maximize your hours. One important part of this, and I don’t want to suggest anyone to be lazy, is you have to know when to take a break to keep your mind fresh. Let’s say I’m studying for my CFA exam, or I’m working on one project. I’m not productive if I have been working on it for more than seven hours. It would be more productive if I did it for less time, but focused on maximizing the good time. You need to know when to stand up and go for a walk. You need to know when to grab a healthy snack. You need to know when you need to take a break. And make sure you take them. It’s also important not to be distracted; I always make sure to use my phone less frequently.

-How was your university experience? How do you make the most of it?
-Western is such a great school. There are lots of interesting programs. Student life is really good. There is a lot of diversity, and there are a lot of very interesting people. No matter what program you’re in, consider these two important tips. Don’t overwhelm yourself by joining too many clubs. Join a few clubs that you really want to engage with. Make sure that the club is a good fit, with a mission that matches your values, and is filled with committed people. It’s best to work with people you like and are working towards a common goal. Secondly, make the most of your professors. Go to their offices and pick their brains. My economics professor was the thesis advisor for the guy who now works as the governor of the Bank of Canada, and I’m receiving a similar education!

-How do you motivate yourself to finish tedious tasks?
-My biggest motivator is the people around me. I’ve been really fortunate at work, because I think that I’m inspired at least once a day. When I see people around me do really cool things, I try to see how the tasks I need to do fit into the bigger picture. I imagine how those small tasks will achieve the bigger goals of the firm. So when I’m working on an entire communication, I ask myself: how does that contribute to our bigger corporate goal of treating our clients really well? You have to connect all the tiny things you have to do with the bigger things. Why do I have to do my homework right now? Well, if I do my homework, I’ll achieve high marks and get into the program of my choice. Connect it back to the bigger picture! Essentially, think of your short-term goals/tasks as baby steps to achieving your long-term goal. It also helps to have inspiring people around you. If you want to connect it to the bigger task, but you also see someone else working towards a goal in a different way, it helps.