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Category: Events

Transitionistas Unite to Support Each Other Through Change

If you didn’t attend the most recent Avanti Women gathering, Women in Transition, you missed out on one heck of an empowering, knowledge-packed evening.

Chill, though: I rounded up my key takeaways for women going through transitional career periods—hence the term ‘transitionista’—from each leading lady to share with you, my enterprising readers.

Siobhan Brown, the keynote speaker, hosted a lively presentation entitled ‘Myths and Monkeys of Tough Transition’. She reminded the ladies that they can’t expect their transitions to happen overnight. “When you look at somebody else’s life and think, ‘I want to be where they are’, know that there were probably many sacrifices that had to be made to get to where they are,” she explained. “Oftentimes, they’ve been working towards their goals for 10, 15, or 20+ years, while you’re just starting off from ground zero and comparing yourself to them—that’s not a fair comparison.”

Alosha Paranavithana gave advice to help young adults transition smoothly into the workforce in her Goddess Lean-In Circle, ‘Backpack to Briefcase’. Her key piece of advice for our women’s group centred on setting goals, yet being flexible with the prospects.”Do you know what you want? That’s a big question,” she said to the crowd. “You need to know the answers to those sorts of questions but not have the expectation that things will go exactly the way you planned them because there will be obstacles and challenges down the road.”

In the Goddess Lean-In Circle ‘Immigrant Story to Success’, Maha ElHindawy shared her experiences and insights on selling international work experience to the Canadian job market. “Study when you get to Canada, and I don’t mean necessarily going back to school—study the society, study the community and scan the field that you’re getting into,” she advised. “Be resilient because you will get a ton of ‘nos’ before you get a ‘yes’.”

Lisa Mitchell talked our women’s group through the experience of moving through fear and uncertainty to pursue their true professional passions in her talk,’Discover Career Possibilities’. She told her Lean-In Circle attendees to stay focused on the potential positive outcomes of their career transition, rather than psyching themselves out by the possibility of failure. “When we’re considering a transition, we’re wired to start our thought process with, ‘what if it’s just a disaster?'” she said. “Flip it! Start by asking yourself, ‘what if it all works out?'”

In Lissette Edward Copperi’s Goddess Circle on ‘Branding’, she stressed the importance of being mindful of what you publish on social media. “Every single posting you make really shapes people’s perceptions of you, one way or the other,” she warned. “And now more than ever, it is common practice for employers to check out candidates on social media first to weed out the people who are not a good fit.”

Kate Hodgson taught women how to shape their professional stories in a way that engages potential clients and future employers in her ‘Storytelling’ Lean-In. “When you’re telling your story in a professional sense, the end should always demonstrate the lessons that you learned,” she shared. “How do you reflect back on your experience? What are the things you don’t do any more?” she posed to the group. “What lessons came out of the entire experience that you now absorb as a part of who you are and can offer to somebody else.”

In the Goddess Lean-In Circle, ‘Advancing your career’, Teresa Gabriele spoke to our women’s group about the importance of knowing themselves thoroughly and using that information to enhance their job searches. She stressed the importance of being authentic and consistent in way you present yourself. “Make sure any employer that’s going to be creeping on you—and I’m sure they will—is going to see the same story that you’re selling on your resume, in your interview, or at an informal meeting at a coffee shop,” she advised. “It’s amazing how many people you will meet just randomly that will check your LinkedIn profile, so have the right communication theme about who you are and what you bring to the table.”

Your Turn to Share

Did you find these transitionista tips useful? If so, be sure to leave a comment below and share socially with your friends and colleagues!


This post originally appeared on the  Avanti Women blog. Avanti Women empowers women to develop themselves professionally and personally so they can move forward in their careers and lives. As a volunteer on the communications committee, I contribute content of relevance to the membership monthly.

The Change Leadership Conference: Responding to Change Better & Faster

A diverse group industry leaders recently flocked to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre to hear two of this planet’s most in-demand speakers on leadership and innovation—John C. Maxwell and Jeremy Gutsche—as well as some of Canada’s foremost change agents, discuss leading change successfully in today’s business environment.

“Without change, we remain stagnant, expose our organizations to financial losses, and lose our relevance in the marketplace,” explained the event’s host Yvonne Ruke Akpoveta, CEO at OliveBlue Incorporated, which presented The Change Leadership series.

“Change is dynamic and unending, and now it’s happening at such a fast pace.”

Key learnings

Seven speakers and panellists took to the stage to share their experiences and insights on change leadership. Here is a roundup of some of the most impactful thoughts that were presented.

“Your company culture has to demonstrate that you earn leadership because you’re the best, not because you’ve been there the longest; if your culture protects that kind of environment, nothing is going to change.”

~John C. Maxwell, global leadership expert, speaker, author

“Forty-four per cent of Canadian companies said they had courage, but only 11 per cent of companies in Canada actually had courage (statistics cited from Deloitte’s 2016 report The Future Belongs to the Bold)… They need for us to step up as leaders.”

~Paul Alofs, president and CEO, The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation

“I think diversity is one of the most important issues in terms of innovation and creative thinking. There’s an old saying that, if you and I think alike, then one of us is redundant.”

~Jeremy Gutsche, disruptive innovation expert, speaker, author

“There are things like agile fatigue. Some people thrive on being agile, and others hit the wall. As leaders, we have to be aware of that, and figure out what we have to do to get those employees ready.”

~Gail A. Serverini, divisional vice president, Change Management, Holt Renfrew

“Relevance is not just about having a customer focus but also an employee and community focus…  At RBC, we have a very healthy paranoia about being and staying relevant.”

~Laura Fisher, vice president, Human Resources Shared Services, RBC

Intrapreneurship applies the same tenets of entrepreneurship: ask why, and mobilize people around a vision.”

~Dr. Steven Murphy, dean, Ted Rogers School of Management

“We rally employees behind the vision of us being a tech company that offers banking services.”

~Helen Wang, vice president, IT Lean Program, Scotiabank

Go forth and lead change

Despite the fancy titles of some of the presenters, the most important message conveyed at the event was probably that a person needn’t be a vice president, CEO, or business owner to lead.

“Anyone can learn to lead,” Maxwell told the audience.  My favourite quote is ‘one man with courage is a majority.’”

This post originally appeared in the August 1 Avanti Women blog and e-newsletter. Avanti Women empowers women to develop themselves professionally and personally so they can move forward in their careers. As a volunteer on the communications committee, I contribute content of relevance to the membership monthly.

Sizzling Summer Volunteer Opps

Volunteering during tanning season while your girls are sipping cocktails by poolside doesn’t have to feel like a prison sentence.

Why not gain some resume-worthy skills, diversify your professional and social network, and get VIP access to some of the hottest summer events in the city?

Taste of Toronto: Do you have an appetite for exotic eats and entertainment? Taste of Toronto is the perfect festival for a hardcore foodie to indulge in some appetizing volunteer action. If your schedule’s clear from June 15 to 18, check out how you can get a taste of the action here.

Pride Toronto: With promises of wild costumes, funky choreography, and colourful displays of fabulousness, Pride Toronto is one of the largest parades of its kind in North America. But it’s no easy feat to pull off a diversity celebration of this magnitude without a flock of volunteers who are down for the cause. The not-for-profit organization has a variety of volunteer roles that need to be filled before the main event on June 25. Check here for details.

TD Toronto Jazz Festival:  With soulful performances by artists like Aretha Franklin and Joss Stone, we’d bet jazz aficionados would be willing to pay some pretty good coin to attend the TD Toronto Jazz Festival, from June 23 to July 2.  Keep your cash in your wallets, and fulfill your do-gooder duties, while grooving to the rhythmic vibes of the 31st-annual Toronto Jazz Festival. Just fill out the volunteer application to be considered.

Toronto Fringe Festival: “All the world is a stage,” wrote Shakespeare, empowering any and every one to unleash her or his inner artist. The Fringe Festival features more than 155 indie shows in every genre of theatre. If you believe in the relentless pursuit of self-expression, find out how to get involved here.

Fan Expo Canada: Volunteering at Fan Expo Canada—the largest comics, sci-fi, horror, anime, and gaming event in Canada—might just be the equivalent of fangirl heaven. Running from August 31 to September 3, the event has featured celebs like The Lord of the Rings’ Elijah Wood, comic book legend Stan Lee, and several cast members (including the well-renowned heartthrobs) of The Walking Dead. Fantasy seekers should look no further than here to get involved.

Of course, Avanti Women is always on the lookout new volunteers with a variety of skills and interests—and a passion for fun (that’s essential!)—all year round. Let us know if you want to spend your summer joining us in our mission to empower women to move forward.

This post originally appeared on the June 1 Avanti Women blog and e-newsletter. Avanti Women empowers women to develop themselves professionally and personally so they can move forward in their careers. As a volunteer on the communications committee, I contribute content of relevance to the membership monthly.

~Write-or-die girl

Networking in the 6ix: My triple-threat advantage

Still high off the motivational vibes from last Saturday’s Avanti Women’s Career and Networking Expo, I gained much more than I had bargained for with what I’ve coined my triple-threat advantage : the priceless opportunity to receive coaching from, and ask questions to, three influential and fascinating female professionals, each successful in her own right, on her own terms.

Giving forward

Avanti Women identifies itself as an organization that “gives forward,” due to its numerous charitable initiatives and, more importantly, its mission to move women forward professionally and personally.

It wouldn’t be the Avanti Women way (nor would it be very thoughtful of me) to hoard my newly-attained leadership knowledge for myself. So in the spirit of giving forward, I’m sharing the top three insights I gained from my experience at Avanti Women’s annual event.

Karen Elkin

1. We create our reality through our perception. Karen Elkin, certified leadership coach and workshop facilitator at Karen Elkin Leadership, hosted a workshop about energy leadership for career development. She taught us that we can affect positive change in ourselves and others through self awareness and mindfulness.

“If you look at people through the eyes of compassion versus judgment, you will see them differently,” she explained. “Similarly, they will feel your shift in energy and respond accordingly.”

Cher Jones

2. When it comes to personal branding, a “mullet” is never in style. Cher Jones, social media trainer at Socially Active, gave the ladies a lesson in online personal-brand management. She strongly advised us to Google our names to see what information the public can view, and then audit our social media pages to control the message.

This isn’t to say that we can’t show off our fun and fabulous personalities, Cher assured us. In fact, she noted, displaying a healthy mix of our professional and personal lives makes us appear more trustworthy in the eyes of employers and clients—but we must find the right balance.

Having an uber-professional LinkedIn page simultaneously online with a Girls Gone Wild-esque Facebook profile is “the mullet of personal branding: all business on the top, and a party in the back!” she joked. “You can show that you’re a real person with an exciting life, but professionalism must ring throughout.”

Lissette Edward

3. Make sure your personal brand is in line with your values. Marketing and communications leader Lissette Edward facilitated a personal branding Goddess Lean-In Circle. Through guided discussions, she assisted a small group of women in determining our unique personal brands. She also shared her own journey in crafting her brand.

“If you’re not confident in your personal brand, you will start doubting yourself,” she warned. “You must be able to say to yourself, ‘this is my brand essence, and it will guide all of my professional interactions.’”

…So back to that dreaded N word (a reality check from last week’s post)

The good news is that, by attending Avanti Women’s annual event, I developed a diverse range of solid, applicable leadership skills from three inspirational women that I will practice in my career going forward.

Not so impressive is that, including the friend who accompanied me to the expo (and a couple volunteers I asked for directions), I probably “networked” with about six other women, only two with whom I exchanged business cards.

But I’m starting to understand that that’s not the point…

I get the feeling if I keep showing up—which, in fact, proved to be the hardest part of the Avanti Women eventand showing a genuine interest in professional development and intriguing people, networking will get easier and more natural, and conversations and connections will occur organically with like-minded professionals.

Fortunately, with my triple-threat advantage, I’m armed with new knowledge and a little more courage to face networking situations with confidence and grace.

Embracing the N word

Whenever I hear the N word, I cringe. I actually get a little sick to my stomach.

Networking can be very intimidating, especially when the most social part of my workday as a self-employed writer is that convivial conversation with the Starbucks barista, in which she rambles off my meticulously-customized latte from memory—but can never seem to recall my first name.

Networking in the 6ix

Click to enlarge

I wasn’t looking for a networking event to attend when I discovered Avanti Women online. While doing my due diligence by researching the association’s website before applying to fill its vacancy for a volunteer position, I learned (among other things) that Avanti Women was hosting its third-annual career and networking expo in just a few weeks.

A little intrigued, I emailed the info address with some questions about the expo. Within hours, the organization’s founder, Dina Barazza, called me back. She not only answered my questions about the expo; she asked me questions about myself and my goals. And then she did something that totally blew my mind: she asked me if I’d like to meet for coffee!

One on one with Dina

Dina Barazza

We met last Monday evening at my office. Dina was gregarious, genuine and humorous, with a little bit of a potty mouth. We had a few chuckles, and then I asked her to tell me her story.

“When I look back at my career, mainly the in corporate environment, over the last 25 years, it was a struggle,” she shared. “I would get home and ask my mother, ‘What am I doing wrong?’ ‘What do I have to do to get noticed?’”

Her mother’s response was, “Avanti! Avanti!” which, in Italian, means, “move forward” or “stay positive.” But despite Dina’s positive attitude, she continued to face rejection and couldn’t find the nurturing she needed from her colleagues to help her reach the next steps in her career.

“I realized, OK, I’m going to have to figure this out on my own,” Dina continued. “And with that, the Avanti Women’s recipe for success was born: networking, mentoring, and learning. All three of those ingredients were critical success factors in my career world.”

She and I also discussed my business goals to great lengths, and she was adamant that I can—and must—learn to network to achieve my professional objectives. I later learned, after our meeting, that Dina is widely known by many GTA business professionals as a “networking guru.”

Who am I to argue about networking with a guru?

Needless to say I was sold on the value of networking with very little convincing. Dina also reassured me that the first activity of the expo on Saturday morning is a fun networking exercise to break the ice between members. (Phew!)

To find out how I fare at my first networking event of 2017, check my column next week for the good, the bad, and the awesome details.

Visit NETWORKING IN THE 6IX for more details on Avanti Women’s Career and Networking Expo, this Saturday, April 1, at Centennial College.

*Special thanks to Avanti Women Founder Dina Barazza and Marketing & Events Manager Mandy Kaur for their contributions to this post.