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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

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. 

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.

Aspirations & Impressions

Tabassum Lakhi is a Creative Writing Intern at GEM and also a GEMgirl. Tabbassum shares her first impressions and hopes for the year ahead in the GEM program.

Interviews are intimidating. It’s all about what you can do for the interviewer, what you can bring to the business, and why you’re the right choice. But seldom do you walk into an interview wondering about all the things they can do for you and how much of an asset they would be in your life.

I had a very high impression of GEM walking in and out of the interview I had to do to be accepted into the GEM program, and so far GEM has yet to deter that. After the first meeting, I was able to see in depth, what GEM has planned out for the girls this year. I knew GEMgirls would get lots of opportunities, but I honestly didn’t expect this much; the ballets, the coffee chats, the scholarships, and so much more. I have yet to meet my mentor, but I already know this is going to be a great year.

Before applying to GEM as a creative writing intern, I hadn’t really gotten the opportunity to share my work. With GEM, I’m able to set out of my comfort zone and explore a dream of mine; to be a creative writer. It’s not only an opportunity I am extremely grateful for, but it is also an opportunity that will help enhance my writing skills. Although I love writing, I also love biology, which is why I am pursuing a career in the medical field. I hope to attend university, and become a nurse practitioner, a surgeon, or an orthodontist. To be able to write, and still pursue a career in the medical field, would be the best of both worlds.

New Beginnings

Shanza Zulfiqar is a current GEMgirl and a Creative Writing Intern at GEM this year. She’s a grade 12 student at Marc Garneau collegiate, aspiring writer and law student hopeful. She gives us her impression of the GEMprogram so far.

To me, change and new beginnings have always seemed scary. I keep thinking “How do you know what the future holds?” With the little experience I have from life, I’ve realized there really is no way to find out but there are many things that you’ll feel while you try to figure it out. There will be some nervousness, some excitement but at the end; success.

Now that I’ve joined GEM, I feel the same way again. Words cannot describe how thrilled I am to be a part of this program and how genuinely excited I am to be working with such an amazing team. As for the girls, I see a lot of faces; many I recognize, while others, relatively new. I can’t wait to get to know all of them on a personal level.  But, I also feel a bit nervous (I’m sure I speak for a lot of the other girls) because this is the first time I’ve joined a program outside of school. Regardless, I expect a lot from this program and this year.

I expect to be more confident, social and have a sense of where I want to go in life after high school. I would like the time and opportunity to pursue what I love…law, and study more subjects that can be used to benefit others. I would like to bring justice to the people that are voiceless. I would like to learn about the history of law by talking to lawyers who have lived in different places, studied different types of laws and learn from those who spent their whole lifetime becoming masters of law.

Overall, most of us teenagers don’t like change and we’re scared to try new things but with a supportive team like GEM, I think it’s safe to say we’re off to a very good start.