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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!

Top 3 Reasons Carmen The Opera was Awesome

What an evening! I found myself completely mesmerized by the performance at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. That’s how I and 19 other GEMgirls and mentors got to spend our Saturday night, attending the final dress rehearsal of the Canadian Opera Company’s performance of Carmen, on April 9. The distinguishing reasons that made the breath-taking phenomenon so spectacular were the live orchestra along with the phenomenal performance. The icing on the cake was the appearance of the two most renowned Carmen’s in the world!

Live Orchestra. You’d think 3 hours of watching a performance would get boring, but I was hypnotized the way Orchestra and Chorus played Georges Bizet’s compositions, and the hours drifted away right in front of my eyes. What captivated me was the thrill and excitement of being taken on a musical journey and I believe the Orchestra and Chorus did justice to Bizet’s masterpiece, Carmen.

Phenomenal Performance. Even though it was a full dress rehearsal, it was nothing short of a flawless performance. The performers were effortlessly able to transport the entire audience back to the 1870’s, into the exciting, romantic, and tragic story.

Two in One. The appearance of two of the world’s most renowned Carmen’s made the performance extra special. How often does one get to see two of the five most famous Carmen’s to perform in one opera?

DSC_0389My special gratitude to Katherine Semcesen for not only familiarizing us with the classical architecture behind the venue but also answering our questions during the intermission. And a special thanks to all the GEM mentors for taking out their time to accompany the mentees.

This was my first experience attending an opera but definitely not the last. As for the Canadian Opera Company, you’ll always find me in the audience!

To see more photos from our special night out click here.

Written by GEMgirl Aliza Fatima

 

How Volunteering Has Helped Me in My Job Search

Currently, I am a GEM volunteer finishing a post-graduate degree in Public Relations. This entire semester has been spent focusing on finding a summer position. How do I find the time to be in school full time, work part-time and volunteer? The answer is simple: I make time. Volunteering has not only helped me on a personal level, but it has helped me to develop skills I have used in my job search, and here is why:
It allows me to feel apart of something larger than myself. Writing resumes and cover letters all the time you start to allow yourself to think as an “I”. Not to mention all of the job interviews where you explain your strengths, your accomplishments and how you will be an integral part of an organization. While this is great and warranted, sometimes we need to take a step back and think about the bigger picture.
Networking. Through GEM I can honestly say that I have made some incredible connections and have truly learnt the value of being a part of a team. Although I am not always in the office, in fact I am only there one day a week, I never feel left out and have forced myself to be engaged in my surroundings.
How to compartmentalize. Say that three times fast. Sometimes it’s hard to sit down and focus on something when it’s unpaid and you are busy with homework, social calendars and home life. Volunteering has allowed me to pick and choose what I need to focus on in that moment, be present and put my best foot forward. This is a critical skill not only in the job hunt but once you’re in a position as well.
Spend your time volunteering for a cause you believe in. Maybe your position as a volunteer will open the door to a new job opportunity, you never know until you try.
Blog by Jamie Crawford-Ritchie. Jamie is a student at Seneca College’s Public Relations program and volunteers at GEM using her social media prowess. When she’s not at school, volunteering with GEM or working at her part-time job, she’s on social media or dreaming about going back to Disneyland.
Photo: Jamie Crawford-Ritchie, Social Media Volunteer at GEM.

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