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How to help your mentee deal with job rejection

At GEM, we believe that young women should be ambitious and unafraid to go after their dream job. As many of us know, ambitious people often face a lot of rejection before they land in a place they want to be. Learning to deal with job rejection is an important part of a young woman’s professional development.

With summer fast approaching, our GEM girls have started searching for summer jobs. Mentors play an important role in all stages of their mentee’s job search, from helping to prepare for the search to dealing with job rejection to celebrating success. Here are some ways to help your mentee deal with job rejection.

Validate her feelings

Many high school students searching for their first summer job may have never faced job rejection before. Being rejected can really hurt, especially the first time it happens. It’s important to let your mentee know that it’s okay to feel down. Interviewing can be very tiring and it’s easy to feel like giving up after not getting the job you wanted. Remind your mentee that she’s not alone; a 2014 Times Higher Education poll found that students apply for 12 jobs on average before getting their first role. Almost everyone goes through job rejection a few times in their lives!

Help her put her rejection into perspective

A high school student may have difficulty seeing the bigger picture, especially if this is her first attempt at getting a job. Remind your mentee that job interview outcomes are not a measure of her success or her professional growth. Interview decisions are made based on all kinds of reasons that may have nothing to do with the interviewee. Tell your mentee that she should measure her success based on her own goals and accomplishments unrelated to the outcome of a job interview.

If you can, share your own story of job rejection with your mentee to help her put her situation in perspective. Emphasize the fact that you continued to learn and grow professionally after the rejection and eventually ended up where you wanted to be. It just takes a bit of resilience and patience!

Talk about next steps

The most important part of dealing with a job rejection is to learn from the experience and continue moving forward. Encourage your mentee to request feedback from the interviewer so she knows what she needs to work on. Although many interviewers will not provide detailed feedback, it’s worth a shot!

Start talking to your mentee about her plan B (or C or D or E!) and discuss how she is going to prepare for her next interview. It’s important to stay positive and energized during a job search. After all, when one door closes, another one opens!

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

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. 

The Art of Small Talk    

We’ve all been there. That moment when you are standing next to someone you’ve just met with nothing to say. Or maybe you’d like to start a conversation with someone but you don’t know how. Small talk is an art. There are those of us who are naturally gifted and those who have to work at it, but I promise you it does get easier and you will get better.

Depending on your personality and the situation you’re in, your approach will vary. I find I change the topics and the tone of my conversation depending on the setting – social vs. school. Small talk is often the starting point of a conversation and the goal is to find a common thread with the person you are engaging. I often find that some conversations never move past the “small talk” stage, and that’s ok. Other times small talk will lead to a more meaningful connection.

These are the three key things to keep in mind when you’re trying to make “small talk”

Keep it Light – Small talk is not a time for serious conversation. I always stick to light themes and topics that everyone can talk about. Maybe I mention the weather: How cold it is today and that I am not a fan of winter, at all! If it’s an early morning meeting maybe I’ll joke about how I only become human after my cup of coffee. I pick topics that others can relate to and the conversation develops from there.

Listen and Ask Questions – Asking simple questions really gets people to open up. I listen for cues from the conversation to ask follow up questions. This strategy not only lets the other person know that I’m listening to them but also keeps the conversation flowing, avoiding those awkward silences. For example: If after I complained about the winter, the other person said they ski and therefore look forward to winter, I will follow up with something like “Where is the closest ski hill to Toronto?”. People generally like to talk about themselves (whether they admit it or not) so asking questions about them is an easy way to get things going.

Share Your Personal Experiences – Now that you have the other person talking about something that is of interest to them, keep the momentum going. Contribute your own story about what you are discussing. For example: I would mention to my new skier friend that “I skied as a child, but nothing serious. And that a few years ago my younger brother convinced me to try snowboarding, which did not go well. So these days I prefer to sit inside with a hot chocolate.”

The hardest part of small talk is getting the other person engaged. Starting the conversation with something generic like the weather gives you an opportunity to listen for the next direction in conversation.

So the next time you’re at in an elevator say hello, mention the weather, or compliment the person on their shoes. It’s amazing how open people are to small talk and how easy it really is, once you put in the effort.

This article is written by GEM Mentor, Vanja Peric, CFA and Assistant Vice President at Bell Kearns & Associates Ltd. She’s a mentor to GEMgirl Maryam Hasam, avid traveller and loves to help others through mentorship and story telling.  

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