Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at www.thevertexfighter.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

"Program helps students land that first job"/ "Three skills to succeed at work"

 Apr. 27 "Program helps students land that first job": I cut out this article by Jared Lindzon in the Globe and Mail on Dec. 27, 2014:


Students and recent graduates often find themselves in a Catch-22 scenario - requiring work experience in order to get a job, but unable to acquire that experience without first landing one.

And after the Ontario government cracked down on unpaid internships earlier this year, and other organizations faced criticism over the practice, students now have even fewer opportunities to prove their abilities to potential employers, especially if their particular area of career interest isn't directly related to their educational studies.

"If only a small percentage of students are enrolled in degree programs that incorporate work experience [such as co-op programs], and laws forbidding unpaid internships for everyone else are being enforced, how are students who don't study [subjects] where their degree is relevant to a job title show an employer that they have what it takes?" asked Lauren Friese, founder of TalentEgg, an online resource and job board for students and recent graduates.

This obstacle inspired Ms. Friese to create TalentEgg Challenges, which seeks to provide practical work experience to students while giving employers an opportunity to discover potential candidates' true skills.

This is how it works: Employers provide a real-world problem the organization faces, and call on students and recent graduates to submit proposals to solve the dilemma. Each employer provides awards to top submissions, ranging from employment opportunities to cash prizes.

Though only a few of the hopefuls will take home a prize, every applicant is given a personalized report assessing his or her submission in comparison to other competitors. The reports are broken up into categories in order to help students learn which areas they excel in, and where they need to improve, and can help demonstrate those skill sets to potential employers as they look for work.

"They then have something quantifiable and real that they can put on their résumé or LinkedIn profile to say, 'look, I participated in this challenge, and guess what? In the analysis section I came in the top 10 per cent,' " said Ms. Friese. "When an employer is then assessing them they can look beyond where they went to school and what they studied."

Above all else, said Ms. Friese, the program is designed to help students and recent graduates discover the type of work they actually enjoy doing, which can be especially beneficial for those who haven't had an opportunity to work in a professional environment.

"Without having some sort of relevant experience in the workplace, it's really hard to know what it is you bring to the table," said Ms. Friese.

The inaugural challenge this year was posed by Canadian courier giant Purolator, who gave competitors 30 days to propose strategies to leverage social media in order to expand the company's business and brand identity. Applications were judged on three criteria - creativity, feasibility and submission structure. Second and third place applicants were awarded $1,000, with the top submission receiving $3,000 along with paid summer employment.

"When I heard about the opportunity for TalentEgg Challenges I was very interested in the possibilities of getting new ideas from students," said Erik Ragotte, manager of strategy and innovation at Purolator. "I knew they would think of something out of the box, and even if it's not something that you can immediately implement, it just gets your thinking going in a different direction, and gives us an opportunity to come up with new ideas and innovations."

More than 600 applicants submitted proposals to Purolator's challenge and, after a lengthy selection process, the top three were called in for interviews, with the grand prize eventually awarded to Queen's University bachelor of commerce student Tusaani Kumaravadivel.

"You can tell that she really had a great understanding of the business, and I found by reading her submission it was much easier to see her level of talent, rather than looking at a one-page résumé," added Mr. Ragotte.
Ms. Kumaravadivel was surprised when she received the phone call from Mr. Ragotte, knowing that she was competing against older students and graduates.

"I was more looking for an opportunity to get noticed by recruiters or by Puralator as an organization," said Ms. Kumaravadivel, adding that her career path following graduation is still "up in the air," though she has an interest in strategy and management. "TalentEgg gives you feedback even if you don't win, and I think that's a really useful way of helping you grow."

With the first competition completed, TalentEgg moved on to new challenges posed by Metro News Canada, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto, Travel Cuts and the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board. It's also planning challenges with Procter & Gamble, RBC and Queen's University.

"As more and more companies participate in Challenges and more students start to as well I think we're going to help pave the way for a new way of assessing young people and what they can bring to the workplace," said Ms. Friese. "We can solve some of the problems employers have in finding the right people for entry-level opportunities and help students make better, more informed decisions about what they want to do."


"Three skills to succeed at work": I cut out this article by Nina Dhar in the Globe and Mail on Dec. 27, 2014:

I was recently asked by a former executive client how I’ve made myself indispensable. He had been asked by a professional women’s organization to give a lecture on the topic and wanted some input. I had to give the question some serious consideration. I thought about the implications of the question and, if I was in his shoes, what I would want to say. This is what I shared.

I find the question interesting and a bit disconcerting. Is there any value in asking ourselves, ‘How have I made myself indispensable?’ By definition ‘indispensable’ means ‘absolutely necessary’ implying that organizations cannot do without them. However, we all know that people leave, circumstances change, markets evolve, technologies disrupt, ‘coup d’etats’ unravel nations and so on. Different types of individuals become indispensable – perhaps – in certain circumstances, in certain contexts, but it’s not everlasting and the impact is never infinite.

Since being indispensable is temporal, professionals would do well to ask themselves, ‘why am I asking myself this question?’ If the answer circles around notions of job security and demand in the market then these notions will only lead to disappointment. We are all subject to context (operational, organizational, market, political) – even the most senior leaders.

Sometimes corporations seem to make radical shifts in their leadership. If you look ‘under the covers’ you may observe that these types of changes are reflections of changing needs. A bank, for example, at a time when they are losing market share, may hire a leader with expertise in customer strategy and channel management. That same bank may make a big change if it is slammed with security regulation compliance violations and hire a CEO who has strength in making radical governance reforms. So, context is key to deciphering who may be indispensable at any given moment in history.

Some of the social media discussions about this issue suggest that being a ‘generalist’ rather than a ‘specialist’ is the key to indispensability.

I’d prefer to frame the thinking around valuable capabilities. Here are some of the top capabilities that I believe add value, are highly transferable across industries, and can be cultivated and nurtured.

Being able to state the problem

The ability to gather and examine various types of information and distill the salient points and then articulate them is a key skill. The more insightful the points, the greater the value. The more effectively the points are articulated, the easier it will be for others to rally around the insights.

Being able to connect the dots

Cultivating understanding requires individuals who can paint a picture that people truly understand and can make the connection between the information and what it means. Key questions to help articulate interpretation include: what are the issues?; what are the implications for the organization?; what are the potential risks and advantages? Considering these points facilitates real discussion and debate encourages thoughtful decisions to be made.

Be a facilitator

There are individuals in organizations with this title, and sometimes they are also called, mediators, or negotiators. The fundamental skills of these individuals are valuable because they help to overcome roadblocks and barriers in devising or implementing a solution. They can be catalysts.

Even if your role doesn’t include ‘facilitator’ in the job description, you will always do well to develop this capability, since your role will help to facilitate thoughtful progress.

Combined, these are powerful capabilities that will contribute to anyone’s career progression and opportunities. They will allow you to find new avenues to explore ideas and devise options to improve the organizations where you work.

People with these skills will go to organizations that need reflection and action.

Focusing on being ‘indispensable’ won’t encourage you to develop the right skills and capabilities. So instead, find ways to add value to your role.

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