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Congrats GEMerald Award Winners!

This year GEM started a scholarship fund called the GEMerald Awards. The intention is that every year the GEM community of mentors, supporters and donors will contribute to a fund that will benefit GEMgirls pursuing further education. This year we had a fantastic group of GEMgirls win 5 awards. Each GEMgirl was encouraged to apply and to highlight her contribution to GEM as well as address how the GEM program had positively impacted their life. Girls were chosen through an evaluation process lead by GEM Mentors that emphasized the written application and the strength of their reference.

The winners of the first ever GEMerald Scholarships were:

Zarah Ahmad – GEMerald Scholarship Winner, Apple MacBook

Hira Durvesh – GEMerald Scholarship Winner, Apple MacBook

Fatima Waheed – GEMerald Scholarship Winner, $1000

Aliza Fatima – GEMerald Scholarship Winner, $750

Hajar Seiyad – GEMerald Scholarship Winner, $500

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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.

Mentorship Tips: How to help a student mentee craft an elevator pitch

In our fast-paced world, a well-crafted speech designed to ‘sell yourself’ in a very short time frame is a crucial component of networking. Most of our mentees have never thought of this. And even if they have, what do they do if they feel like they have nothing to ‘sell’?

Most articles about creating an elevator pitch instruct you to do things like clarify your job target, eliminate industry jargon, communicate your ‘unique selling position’, and use specific statistics if you can. For an inexperienced student, these suggestions mean almost nothing. Yet, having a ready-to-use summary of who you are and where you want to go is an important practice for young women and aspiring professionals.

Mentors can play an important role in helping their student mentee make this transition from school to work. The steps below are suggestions on how you can help your mentee craft an elevator pitch despite a lack of work experience. This exercise is also a great opportunity to help your mentee think more deeply about the kind of career they want to build for themselves.

1. Brainstorm phrases that describe your mentee’s personality, interests, and goals

For example, do they love writing? Are they naturally good with people? Do they have a knack for presenting good arguments? Are they a computer wiz? Explore questions like this with your mentee and write down some phrases that best describe them.

2. Choose one or two key words that encompass their most important attributes and interests

For example, if they like helping others and they’re good at mediating conflicts, they might choose ‘sociable’ as their key characteristic. An elevator pitch must be concise, so it’s important to narrow the focus (even if your mentee has many more wonderful qualities!).

3. Find examples of experiences that demonstrate their character trait(s)

Continuing with the example above, your mentee might demonstrate their ‘sociability’ through volunteer work or a student club they are involved in. If your mentee has no relevant experience, this is a good time to suggest that they think strategically about extracurricular activities. Even something as simple as writing a blog about an area of interest can go a long way (plus it’s free and easy to set up!).

4. Help your mentee connect their characteristics to a professional field

A very sociable person, for example, could do well in a managerial role, in human resources, or in healthcare. A problem faced by many students is that they just don’t know what options are out there. After exploring some of your mentees’ interests and character traits, a conversation about career directions can be extremely helpful.

5. Come up with a phrase that will make them memorable

You want to help your mentee create an elevator pitch that not only showcases their talents, but also helps them stand out from the pack. You want it to be authentic while cutting through the clutter. An example may be, “I am obsessed with being healthy and recently tried Kombocha, a fermented tea drink, now I’m addicted.”

5. Prepare questions that will keep the conversation going

A good question after an elevator pitch is an important part of building the relationship. Your mentees’ question should emphasize their eagerness to connect and learn more about the person they are talking to.

Based on the steps above, here is an example of an elevator pitch and introduction that could be effective for a ‘sociable’ high school student:

My name is Sana and I am in my final year at Newtown High School. I am a volunteer at the seniors’ home in my neighbourhood. I coordinate various kinds of activities for the residents there. I am passionate about working with people and I’m very good at organizing events. I am working towards building my career as a manager, perhaps in healthcare. I’m obsessed with trying new health advice and tips. I recently started drinking kombocha and now I’m addicted. Do you have a health tip that you swear by?

Try building an elevator pitch with your mentee. It might make the difference in their success.

Do you have any tips or tricks on helping others build amazing elevator pitches? We’d love your suggestions!

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.

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.