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GEM: A Real Gem of a Program

Imagine a room full of women with superpowers. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Well, you don’t need to look inside a comic book to see these superwomen, because you can see them in real life. They are the ambitious, intelligent and beautiful women that are part of Girl’s E-Mentorship (GEM).

I have had the pleasure of being a part of the GEM program this year. I truly believe that it has changed my perspective of the world around me in addition to teaching me valuable skills for the future. Not only did I learn things like time management techniques and how to ace an interview, I also learned that women are powerful and can achieve great things. I learned that being surrounded by positive, dedicated and determined people will truly change you as well: seeing these wonderful women made me feel motivated to strive to be the best person that I can be.

I also learned the value of having a mentor in your life. I started off as a self-conscious teenage girl, but with the encouragement of my mentor and all my loved ones, as well as the incredible experiences I have had this year, I have become something more. I am now a confident and independent individual that will continue to grow and become the best person that she can.

And I’m not the only one that enjoyed the program. The response to the program has been staggeringly positive: both mentors and mentees expressed how much they loved it. I interviewed both mentors and mentees to see what they had to say. Celine Do, one of the mentees this year says “There aren’t enough words I can use to describe how phenomenal my experience has been with GEM. If you talked to me a day before that first GEMinar, you would be appalled at how nervous, and shy I was. I have grown so much through this program and its valuable curriculum, and because of my mentor, Alison Simpson. We have established an amazing relationship that definitely will not end like my year at GEM.”

Another mentee, Aklil Noza, loved interacting with like-minded individuals and gaining wisdom from successful women. She says, “I feel so much more self-assured after GEM because I face the same hardships as these beautiful girls around me, yet they’ve overcome their obstacles and still managed to shine. So what’s stopping me from doing the same?”

Similarly, the response from mentors has been extremely positive. Siobhan Desroches, who is the Manager of Government Affairs & Stakeholder Relations of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, says that she became more motivated in her own career as a result of meeting such motivated and focused young women in the program. She also says, “It was incredibly fulfilling to participate in a program working to achieve these goals, and I have never been more hopeful in the future Canadian women after meeting these girls.”

GEM Mentor Liron Davis, who is the Manager of the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation, also spoke about how this program has been one of the highlights of her year and how surprised she was that mentorship evolved into a “friend-like dynamic.”

So to anyone who is thinking of joining GEM as either a mentor or mentee: do it. You will have the most amazing experiences, meet the most talented, creative and awesome women, and grow immensely as a person. You won’t regret it, I promise!

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

Networking from High School to Higher Education

When high school students are making the transition from secondary school to higher education they spend a lot of time focused on their grades. Don’t get me wrong, good marks and strong course selections are the foundation of any great application, but it’s only part of the package. An important component that is often overlooked is networking skills. From the pre-application information sessions to the interview process, strong networking and communication skills can make the difference between an acceptance letter and a rejection.

The key is to use EVERY opportunity you have to network and connect with the schools of your choice to make a positive and lasting impression. Schools see so many qualified candidates on paper but if you can make a connection with an admissions officer or recruiter, when its time to decide who’s in – it is much more likely to be YOU! The great news is that networking is a skill that is simple to learn and with a little practice and these helpful tips you’ll be networking like a natural in no time.

Shake hands with people when you meet them. A confident handshake is the first part of any great networking interaction. It communicates that you are enthusiastic and motivated to connect with the person you are meeting. Handshaking also has an interesting biochemical impact, which is that when you shake hands with someone, they will feel more positively about you the next time you meet. This is critical when you are trying to make your application stand out from the crowd – you want your preferred school and its representatives to feel positive about you.

Say your name clearly when you introduce yourself. No matter how great your handshake is or how clever your small talk it won’t make any difference if the people you meet can’t remember your name. To prevent this from happening make it easy for other people to remember your name by ensuring you say your name slowly (you can even spell it out if you find people struggle with it), and give them some way to remember it maybe an interesting story about how you came to have it. Another important tip: make sure you remember their name too! It won’t do you any good if you can’t remember the name of the admissions officer you spoke with.

Do Your Homework. When networking for higher education, you are essentially taking an in person exam and that means you need to study. To prepare you should read up on the school, be very well informed about the programs, know why and how you want to attend and have questions ready for them about the student experience. This will allow you to have very powerful conversations and also demonstrate that you are the kind of student who will thrive at their institution.

Look the Part. Networking is all about putting your best foot forward and that includes looking your best and dressing appropriately. This means you should dress based on the dress code of the event, make sure that even casual clothes are clean and neat and always make sure you are well groomed . This doesn’t mean your wardrobe shouldn’t personality – it should – just make sure it’s also respectful of the people you’ll be meeting and the environment you’re in.

Say Thank YOU. A little gratitude goes a long way! Everyone appreciates being appreciated and this is especially true for recruiters and admissions officers who work tirelessly to recruit the best talent for their schools. To thank them, make sure you get a business card or contact information so that you can send a handwritten note to thank them for their time and to remind them how excited you are about the prospect of attending their school!

Lisa Orr is an etiquette and protocol consultant and owner of Orretiquette. She is a big supporter of GEM and recently hosted a Networking workshop for GEMgirls where she also gifted each of them with their own personalized business cards! Find out more about Lisa here: Website | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

 

 

 

GEMinar 5: Networking IRL

No matter what field you are in or decide to go into, networking is crucial. You shouldn’t miss any opportunity to do so because you never know how many connections the other person may have. I’ve always enjoyed meeting new people and networking but I never realized how it was such an important skill to possess. It will always be beneficial and aid us in our future career prospects.

Luckily enough, our girls got the chance to attend a ‘Networking in Real Life” GEMinar on Friday February 5, hosted by Lisa Orr of Orr Etiquette. Personally, I thought this GEMinar was amazing and I feel that I really needed this. It was especially relevant at this point of the school year and before going off to university, where I’ll be meeting new people every day. By the end of the event, I felt a lot more confident about the way I interact with other individuals and meeting new people.

GEMgirl Fatima Waheed said, “This was, by far, one of my favourite GEMinars and also the most applicable in real life. People say ‘first impressions aren’t the last’ but I think when it comes to job interviews, this isn’t true because people don’t have time to get to know you personally. First impressions do matter a lot but now I feel more confident about mine,” We couldn’t agree more, Fatima!

The GEMinar facilitator, Lisa, was very friendly and made the GEMinar fun and informative at the same time. When I came into the room, I saw a bunch of people in shiny, blue capes and stepped back thinking maybe I came to the wrong room. However once I stepped in, I realized I was just in time for the second activity, which was introducing yourselves to a new people and then having them comment on the back of your cape. I was astonished by the results of this and still have pictures saved of what was written on mine. Someone said “You’re very friendly, very confident and I could talk to you all day.”

Throughout the session, one of the most important things I learned was how to strike up a conversation by asking people questions about themselves. A simple “what’s your favourite book?” is a very good trick because who do people like talking about most? Themselves, of course.

To end off the event, we got the best swag bags ever; our own business card! Thank you to the GEM team and Orr Etiquette for that. Can’t wait to start giving those out!

Shanzah Zulfiqar is a grade 12 studen at Marc Garneau C.I., a GEMgirl and Creative Writing Intern at GEM.

How to grow your network, when you’re only in high school!

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”

I was always (and still am) a shy person. Hearing these words was often discouraging for me. Networking was something I wasn’t exactly sure how to approach. Having immigrated to Canada as a teenager, my family knew nobody. There was tremendous stress to learn, adapt and compete. I saw first-hand the struggles my parents went through in securing employment with a lack of Canadian connections or networks. These barriers shed light on the importance of developing relationships to achieve goals. For better or for worse, it’s not always what you know or are capable of doing; it’s who you know and what they know about you. Your network can open doors for you that otherwise could not be opened.

So how can you start mastering and growing your network? Networking is a skill that you can learn even if you’re not a natural conversationalist. Building a sense of confidence is key to developing networking competence. If you have the right focus and determination, cultivating confidence is readily achievable.

  1. Be open to new people and experiences – I never liked moving beyond my comfort zone, but I have come to realize that’s really where the magic happen. Growing, learning and developing in a way that expands our horizons beyond what we thought was possible builds character and leadership. Start getting to know others outside your peer group. Join school clubs that broaden your exposure to other areas. In high school, I organized our first Career Day that allowed me to meet people from different spheres and build leadership skills.
  2. Practice makes perfect – I attended countless Career Fairs and Information Sessions as a student to get in front of others. No matter how much it forces you to step out of your comfort zone, take the first step and approach someone at an event and introduce yourself. The more you do this, the easier networking will become later on.
  3. Have an elevator speech – Perfect your hand shake and know your elevator speech (click here for tips & examples). These set first impressions, so make sure it’s strong and confident.
  4. Go the extra mile – Set yourself apart with sending follow-up thank you notes and questions related to your conversations. Even if you “don’t need to network”, you do. You never know when you’ll need someone to help connect you.

Remember, it’s never too early to network. Networking is an essential part of a job or internship search, and it is best to start practicing and refining this skill while in high school. With time, it will become an indispensable skill that you use for years to come. Starting to practice and build confidence now will enable you to become an expert at networking by the time you enter the working world.

Blog by Sharon S.  Sharon is a GEM Mentor who is a logistics professional with one of Canada’s top retailers.