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Undergraduate Students - September 2008

The full version of the September CAPSScoop can be found by clicking here.

Articles in this edition


First Things First

In the Spotlight: MADA Community Centre


Articles

First Things First

by Alysha Kassam


First impressions matter, few would argue this. However, as potential employees, it can be challenging to know just how to make a positive and professional first impression. Here are some useful tips from Jan Bottomer, a career advisor at CAPS, which can help make the difference between a satisfactory first impression and an excellent one.

Planning to attend a career fair or hoping for an interview? The first key task is to make sure you prepare before meeting with employers. Preparation includes researching the company or organisation you are interested in using resources such as company and industry publications and relevant websites to learn what they and their industry are all about. With your increased knowledge of the field, you will be able to ask appropriate and specific questions when encountering the employers. Researching in advance also allows you to tailor resumes and cover letters to emphasise those personal strengths which are most relevant to your potential employer. Having your CVs and cover letters reviewed by another party, such as a CAPS advisor, is strongly recommended to ensure your tools are as professional and polished as possible. Remember to bring additional CVs to any interview, career fair, or employer presentation you attend. This thorough preparation will make you stand out from other applicants and will show that you are motivated and truly enthusiastic about the company/field as well as boosting your confidence, because you will have anticipated questions and situations in advance.

Professional appearance and presentation also have a big impact on first impressions. Your prior research should give you a sense of what attire is appropriate for a given industry, but if you are unsure, erring on the side of more formal and conservative dress is the safest route. It is important to look presentable and polished – leave excess “stuff” at home or in a locker so you are free to mingle and shake hands, go easy on perfume or cologne in case employers are allergic, and turn off your cell phone or blackberry!!! If for some reason you are unable to attend a previously confirmed interview or company presentation, or will be unavoidably late, it is essential to inform the interviewer or presenter. Failing to do so is a basic discourtesy and indicates a distinct lack of respect for their time. Practice your handshake beforehand - a firm, not smothering or limp, handshake is appropriate. Eye contact and a ready smile are sure to score you points as well.

If you are unsure of what to say when meeting employers at a career fair, a short introduction about yourself outlining what you are seeking and how your interests and strengths relate to the company is a good way to begin. Try starting by introducing yourself, stating your graduation date or year of study and your interests. If you have already done some research on the company, feel free to mention this. Some basic examples to get you started are below:

"Hi, my name is ______________. I'll be graduating in ______________ with a degree in ______________. I've researched your organization and I'm interested in ______________."

Don’t forget to ask for the contact information of employers you speak to, and to have your own business cards or CVs ready to hand-out when appropriate.

In summary, preparing ahead will help you to enhance your knowledge of relevant fields and companies and possible opportunities as well increasing your confidence and presentation skills, all of which lead to excellent first impressions! To work on any of the areas mentioned in this article and to receive feedback on verbal and non-verbal presentation skills, students are encouraged to make use of the many resources offered by CAPS, including mock interviews and CV drop-in clinics.


In the Spotlight: MADA Community Centre


MADA Community Center, whose mission is to help the less fortunate maintain their dignity and encourage them to become self-sufficient members of the community, includes a kosher cafeteria where three hot meals are served 365 days a year, a mobile cafeteria, a food bank, a furniture and clothing depot, and a community and crisis center offering individual and family support.

A volunteer-based organization, MADA is people – caring, committed, dedicated people working together to help fight the hunger, poverty and loneliness that is being felt by increasing numbers.

The rapidly escalating cost of living, cuts in social services and an uncertain economy are taking a toll on the Jewish Community. Demand for MADA’s services is at an all-time high. For many, the rising cost of food means having to make a choice between eating and not eating, between food and medication.

The Food Bank is accommodating 2350 people a month, 500 people more a month than last year. Among the most requested items are fresh fruits and vegetables, and frozen food products. Many of those who were too proud to seek help now have no alternative but to do so. The Furniture Depot has doubled its distribution to individuals and families who are in dire circumstances. Donations of new and nearly-new items – cribs, bedroom furniture, kitchen sets and appliances, living room furniture – enable MADA to continue to meet these needs.

The Clothing Depot’s distribution of new and gently used clothing continues to increase. Many thanks to our staff and volunteers for sorting through the tens of thousands of donated men’s, women’s and children’s items.

MADA continues to reach out to the community and, this past spring, hosted five communal Passover Seders at various locations and senior citizens’ residences, resulting in an overwhelming attendance.

While MADA is thankful that it has been able to keep up with the community’s needs, the stark reality of Jewish poverty does not allow us to bask in our success. It is projected that by 2011, the poverty level in Montreal’s Jewish community will reach more than 19 percent.

The more we come into contact with the needy in our community, the more we witness their vulnerability to a variety of problems. This strengthens our resolve to continue our work but we need all the help we can get. Whether you are studying management, social work, business administration, information technology, public relations, know that as a volunteer, you will be the recipient of unexpected rewards -- a smile, a child’s laughter, and the knowledge that you are helping the needy.

Together, we will address their needs – now and in the future.

To volunteer for MADA, please visit their posting on myFuture or visit their website.

 

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