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Career Edge Blog

Update – Alumni Network Committee

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Following several successful initiatives with our former interns in previous years, Career Edge Organization decided to officially launch an association for those who completed paid internships in our three programs – Career Edge, Ability Edge and Career Bridge. We call this the Alumni Network.

In October 2009 we sent out an announcement and a call for volunteers to sit on a Committee that would steer the direction of this program. The response we received was overwhelmingly positive, with many indicating they were interested in participating in Alumni forums and events. We received over 130 applications to sit on the Committee!

Choosing the final Alumni Network Committee (ANC) members was a difficult task but we are proud to say we now have a team of 30 impressive and dedicated individuals.

For the other 100 applicants as well as the 9,500+ former interns in our database – we intend to create many opportunities to volunteer and participate with our organization, our Host Employers and each other.

To kick things off we held our inaugural ANC Meeting at Toronto City Hall (many thanks to our Ward Councillor Adam Vaughan)  this past Wednesday evening and were thrilled to see almost every single committee member in attendance, as well as members of our team including our VP, Donna Smith and our President & CEO, Anne Lamont.

To tackle the massive job of running a Network for Alumni, we decided to divide and conquer, breaking down into groups or subcommittees that will each oversee Alumni Events, Online Communities, Benefits and Perks as well as professional development needs for Alumni of each of our three programs.

By the end of the meeting, every single person had contributed and participated and there was an air of excitement and anticipation in the room because we know that collectively, we can create a program that is innovative and tailored to the specific needs of our thousands of stakeholders. I can’t wait to see what we come up with by our next ANC Meeting in the Spring!

Two more resolutions to add to your list – from Anita Bruzzese

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anita2frameMany of us have been back to work for almost two weeks now, following a few days off with loved ones or for some, a week or two of bliss someplace much warmer than here.

Now that we’re two weeks in – how are those New Year’s Resolutions coming along?

Although you may have entered 2010 fully pumped and ready to take on a long list of ambitious challenges, you may by now not even remember where you placed that list as you continue to play January “catch-up”, a game that may continue well into February. This can involve anything from catching up with work from before the holidays to catching up with people you didn’t see over the holidays.

So the last thing we need at this point is to add to our ominous and growing to-do lists, but I came upon some tips from professional blogger and journalist Anita Bruzzese that I think are very important in today’s professional work environment. Whatever you allow to fall off your radar this month, keep these targets in mind:

  1. Take the High Road
  2. Focus on Quality

In one of Anita’s columns for Gannett News Service (USA Today and many others), which she reposted on her blog, 45 Things (“Eat your salad first, and other career strategies” on January 4, 2010), she provides her own list of career resolutions for 2010 and we were happy to see that a few of the items corresponded with ours.

With Anita’s permission, we’d like to add the above two resolutions to our list and ask that you, our employers and partners, do the same. They are two simple concepts but they are often overlooked and underemphasized.

Focus on quality: A lot of companies like to say they’re focused on quality, and deluge employees with memos and reports on the subject. But there are ways to focus on the quality of your daily tasks that can make a real difference in how you are viewed at work. Try proofing every single e-mail before you send it, making sure you use proper grammar and spelling. When you leave your personal message for callers, stand up and smile while speaking. Your message will make you sound energetic and approachable.

Take the high road: Deciding to be a nicer person is a wonderful goal, and one many people like to put on their resolution list. But the guy in the cubicle next to yours drives you crazy by eating chili cheese dogs – with extra onions – at his desk. The receptionist puts your mail in the wrong box. Lots of little aggravations can challenge your “be nice” resolve at work, and before you know it, you’re upset with yourself after making a snide comment or getting in to an argument with a co-worker. Instead, make a commitment to pay a sincere compliment to one co-worker a day, especially to someone who is getting on your last nerve. Prompting yourself to see the good in someone can help put petty annoyances to rest.

-Excerpt by Anita Bruzzese

Ten New Year’s Resolutions for Work in 2010

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After the holidays, when many of us return to work in January, many of us will be asked the same question by friends, family and coworkers: What’s your New Year’s resolution? To which the average person will give the typical answers: exercise more, eat less, travel, etc.

This year, make your resolutions work for you! As you reflect on the past and set goals for the future, take the opportunity to reexamine your professional life and your goals at work. After all, over half of our waking hours are spent either at the office or commuting to and from it!

Here are some work-related targets to strive towards in 2010:

1. Adopt-a-project

2010 is the perfect time to tackle those projects you put on the backburner in ’09. They don’t even need to be your projects. Somewhere in the land of the lost and abandoned, there is a project once loved and pursued with enthusiasm that never saw the light of day. Keep your eyes peeled for something that inspires you, blow the dust of the file folders and breathe new life into an old initiative.

2. Take Risks

In 2009 you flew under the radar, played it safe and kept your opinions to yourself. You nodded along in meetings and grumbled in private about the inefficiencies of this or that process which hasn’t been changed in over a decade.

This year, speak up in meetings, challenge the status quo and show that you’re willing to be accountable and make a positive change in your organization. Stop the grumbling and put forth solutions. You might even get a pat on the back.

3. Ask for a Raise or Promotion

With talks of lay-offs, hiring freezes and unemployment soaring, many of us were just happy to have a job in 2009. You worked tirelessly to reach your targets, came in to the office early, stayed until late and gave 200% every day without asking for a thing in return.

Now, as things slowly recover, your organization or department may have you to thank (in part) for weathering the storm so well. If you’ve paid your dues and your requests are reasonable, there is nothing wrong with seeking fair compensation or recognition for your efforts.

4. Get organized!

How many hours a day do you spend looking for your stapler? What about that file that you’re sure you saved – you just can’t remember which folder you saved it in?

Many of us have mastered the art of organization at home – our DVDs are in alphabetical order and everything in the pantry is labeled – but the office is a different story. There are piles of documents to be sorted, sticky notes on everything and your virtual desktop is even worse. Before you jump back into things, take an hour to purge what you no longer need and develop a system that will work for you in 2010.

5. Reconnect – Build and Expand your Professional Network

Need an excuse to reconnect with a former colleague from work or university? The New Year – especially the turn of a decade – provides a perfect opportunity to reach out and say hello. Technology, whether through your PC or your Blackberry, makes it easier than ever. Social networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook allow you to find those you used to know and get to know those who share interests with you. Sites like meetup.com can help you find common interest groups to join. You can also apply to sit on committees and boards where you can make a difference as well as meet other professionals with similar goals.

6. Attain a Work-Life-Balance

Last year, your nine-to-five was more like an eight-to-eight. There were some days in the winter you never even saw daylight – you were in before sunrise, left the office after sunset and went to the cafeteria at lunch to grab a sandwich to eat at your desk!

Besides lacking Vitamin D, your family and personal life has also taken a hit. You can’t remember the last time you went to your son’s choir practice or watched your daughter play hockey. Your friends joke that they talk to your voicemail more than they talk to you and the last movie you saw was the Titanic.

In 2010, this should be your top goal: set boundaries and maintain a balance. Some of us have adopted the philosophy of staying at work until the job is done but the truth is, your work will never be finished. There will always be more to do and at some point you have to recognize that you have done all you can for the day and a life awaits you beyond your cubicle walls.

7. Do Good Work

Given the sacrifices we make for work, one can only hope that it is for the greater good. But if you feel uncomfortable telling people about what you do and have trouble making eye contact with yourself in the mirror, you are probably not proud of your work.

Working in the not-for-profit sector has it’s pros and cons – it’s not for everyone – but there are many other ways to make a difference. There are champions in the private sector that make a difference in society either through the business they do or the way they do business.

Is your workplace diverse? Is it environmentally sustainable? Do they treat their employees well and give back to the community? Do you feel like your work has a net positive impact on the world? These are all questions you should ask yourself in 2010.

8. Build Relationships at Work

If you’ve worked at your company for ten years and still don’t know the name of “the tall guy” in the cubicle next to you, 2010 should mark a turning point for you.

What’s amazing is that sometimes a ten minute informal chat at the water cooler with an employee can bring forth solutions to problems that executives never reach after hours in a boardroom meeting behind closed doors.

Managers especially should take the time in the New Year to get to know their teams better. Those who manage large departments can sometimes get lost in the day to day shuffle. Studies show that employee engagement levels are highest when people like and get along with their coworkers, so anything you can do to facilitate team-building in the New Year should be among your top priorities.

9. Learn

They say learning is a life-long process and yet it seems like we have much of it behind us by the time we’re in our twenties.

Whether you’ve hit a ceiling in your field or think it’s time for a second career, there are more opportunities now than ever to continue your education. This can come in many different forms, whether you pursue an MBA, take evening courses to improve your technical skills, buy computer software to learn a new language or take advantage of professional development opportunities at work. Beyond workshops and conferences, your employer may even be willing to fund your post-graduate studies so keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities and be ready to take advantage of them.

10. Just Say No!

You don’t even think before you say it anymore – if someone needs a favour or offers you an assignment, you say “yes” before they can even finish the sentence.

If you feel bogged down and behind at work, you may think it’s because you’re not doing your job. But chances are, you’re doing your job and then some. Unfortunately, your accomplishments are overshadowed by your growing list of “to-dos” that are being pushed from one calendar year to the next and unless you work around the clock, you’ll probably never get around to them.

In 2010, be assertive and resolve to resist the temptation to take on more than you can handle. No one will perceive it as an effort to do less. It’s a commitment to doing what you do better.

On behalf of the team here at Career Edge Organization, we wish you a safe and Happy Holiday and all the best in the New Year!

Samosas and Jamaican Patties: Celebrating the holidays at a multicultural workplace

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Today, everyone here at Career Edge Organization took some time out of our daily busyness to celebrate the holidays which, as they approach, may instill feelings of anxiety (for those of us who haven’t started gift shopping), restlessness, (for those of us going on vacation), or joy (for employees who relish the holiday spirit). This is the perfect time for a celebration!

What’s great about living and working in a multi-faceted country like Canada is that many of us work in diverse, multicultural environments where the traditional North American “Christmas Party” has evolved into something much better.

For example, today’s “Multicultural Potluck” to celebrate the holidays at my workplace was a far departure from the typical turkey-and-stuffing meal that has come to be associated North American celebrations. Today we were spoiled with Samosas, Thai noodles, Latkes and other exotic dishes with roots in South American, Caribbean and Asian cultures in addition to all the staples of traditional Christmas potlucks (we have lots of leftovers if you’re hungry).

We also shared some laughs during a fun holiday-themed team-building exercise. The holidays are a perfect time for these kinds of activities. Things like “Secret Santa” or exchanging gifts anonymously help people get to know each other better and boost employee morale. I highly recommend it!

We are always looking for new, unique ideas on how to celebrate the holidays. We’d love to hear from you and find out how your workplace celebrates this time of year. Is there an evening party? A catered lunch? A day off?

Canadian organizations have seen a lot of ups and downs in the past year and we should all give ourselves a pat on the back. We should appreciate that we are working in an economy where many people are unemployed.

It doesn’t matter what your cultural background is. We all can celebrate the passing of 2009 and the opportunities that lie ahead in 2010!

A message from our friend, David Pecaut

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Earlier this week, all of us here at Career Edge Organization received an email from our President and CEO, J. Anne Lamont. She wrote to share a message from David Pecaut which has since been blogged about, tweeted and featured in the Toronto Star, which called it a “love letter to Toronto.”

Anne Lamont said of Pecaut:

“David was one of the founders of Career Edge Organization in 1996 and has been a member of the Career Edge Organization Board of Directors since inception. Through his vision and support, David was instrumental in the launch of Career Bridge in 2003, an initiative that came out of the Toronto City Summit Alliance Report “Enough Talk” released in April 2003 following the Toronto City Summit in 2002 and the creation of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council focused on improving access to employment for skilled immigrants. David has been the Chair of the Toronto City Summit Alliance for the past seven years.

Based on the successful model of Career Edge internships, Career Bridge internships provide internationally qualified professionals with important Canadian work experience to launch their careers in Canada. To date, over 1100 Career Bridge interns have participated in the program”

David’s Letter begins:

 

Friends and Colleagues,

As many of you know, I have been battling cancer over the past while and have been focusing in recent weeks on spending time with my family.  I am truly lucky to be blessed with an incredible wife and children.

As a consequence of my health issues, I have not had the chance to see many of you and express my appreciation for all the work we have done together.  Nor have I had the chance to share some of my thoughts on Toronto’s future.  This note gives me the opportunity to do both.

Working with you on all manner of city building activities has been one of the greatest highlights of my life.

The full letter can be read online here.