Convocation Season

In the same way I’ll always associate September with a new school year, I associate this time of year with Convocation. Even as schools and students evolve, and add intakes and alternate Convocation ceremonies, I will always think of long black gowns and those black caps.

Convocation 2014. The black robes actually do breathe well, so we are not sweating that badly.

Convocation 2014. The black robes actually do breathe well, so we are not sweating that badly.

A celebration of all the effort, time, and expense a student and their support network have devoted over the past few years, convocation ceremonies can be very emotional. They can also be boring. Like all the other grand celebrations we go through in life; weddings, banquets, awards nights, etc., convocation ceremonies can get side-tracked by technical difficulties, lost attendees, broken air conditioners, or a speaker that has way too much wisdom to impart in too small a time slot.

Last year was the first time I was a part of a convocation team; I was honoured to be a name reader. I practiced my pronunciation all morning, and I was still practicing as I was walking onto the stage. I played a very small part in this ceremony, but it truly gave me an appreciation for how much goes on behind the scenes in order to produce an event like this. An event that means so much to so many graduates, their families and friends, and to the faculty and college staff who have at some point been a part of their journeys.

I’m excited to be a part of the ceremony again this year, and have been working on my reading voice. No yelling for the next week or so, and lots of tea.

Trying something new-ish

My students and I have been talking a lot about team-work, argument formation, and consensus building in the past few weeks. Everyone (well, almost) has been doing the homework and participating in class, but I think we were missing something. The material can be on the dry side if the students don’t get a chance to put any of it into action.

So, I picked an issue (immigration), found some short readings, and brought them to class. We had a summit, lobbyist meetings, and a parliamentary session. As a group, we got a chance to practice what we’d been learning about, and were able to reflect on it. We also role-played as members of parliament, so that was pretty cool too.

Our class

We’re pretty pleased with ourselves!

Interviewing for Personality

One of the topics we spend the most time on in career preparation classes is interviewing. I’ve written about interview skills before, and I’ll probably write about them again, simply because they’re such an important part of getting the job you want.

For a lot of people, past me included, interview skills mean the ability to provide information about yourself. While that’s true, a lot of that information is in your resume or on LinkedIn anyway. So what’s really happening during an interview?

One of the best articles I’ve seen in a while answers this question pretty clearly: does the employer want to work with you, and will you be a good fit at that company? Check out the full article by Elizabeth Bromstein at

Giving Back

I’ve spent a lot of time in classrooms during my time as a learner, and as an educator. I spent a lot of that time in the classrooms at the University of Toronto, both as an undergraduate Arts and Science student, and as a Teacher Candidate at OISE.

So, I was very flattered to receive an invitation to participate on a panel on Working in Education at the U of T Next Steps Conference in May.

photoThe crowd!

As a panelist, I was able to talk about my journey to becoming a post-secondary educator, my current career goals, and my advice to students just embarking on their own journey. Needless to say, I really enjoyed being able to share some of my insights, and dare I say, wisdom.

What do Canadians earn by industry?

This very cool interactive infographic from Maclean’s magazine demonstrates how different industries, jobs, and even time periods stack up against each other. The authors note several trends over an approximate 15 year period, with one of the most significant being a widening wage-gap between the highest and lowest earners. The lowest earning jobs are still the ones that don’t require any post-secondary education. This is the type of infographic every high school student should check out.

What Canadians earn today (and yesterday).

Exam Week Stress

Filling in bubble testExam week is about to begin for the Summer semester, and that means lots of the three Ss: studying, stressing, and sleeping (this last one is most likely only to occur at the end of Exam Week).

There have been many studies over the years that point to exercise as a great stress-relieving activity.

Luckily, Toronto has a wide range of activities to help relieve any exam stress. One of the best ways to exercise, and see Toronto at the same time is to try a Discovery Walk, a free self-guided walking tour around Toronto’s various sites.

For those who prefer bumper cars and deep-fried Coca-Cola or deep-fried Mars bars as stress relief, the CNE conveniently opens August 16th, and runs until September 2nd. It might just be a good idea to try one of those Discovery Walks first.

Accounting Student Creates Awesome RPG Using Excel

I read a very interesting article by Caitlyn Coverly at the Financial Post last week on two of my favourite topics: personal branding, and Microsoft Excel. I teach both subjects, and have a special place in my heart for the detail-oriented world of spreadsheets. As such, that heart leapt at the news that a particularly curious Canadian MBA student created a game, Arena.Xlsm, using an Excel Workbook. The personal branding came into play when this student, Cary Walkin, took a class on brand narrative and marketing yourself. He posted the game to his website, and it took off from there. He’s now about to graduate, and has had articles published about him and his game at BBC News, Mashable, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Financial Post (where I came across it), and Boing Boing, among others. That means great name recognition right off the bat, as well as some truly cool Google results.

Resume Language: are you fluent?

I just read an excellent article at on phrases to avoid when writing your resume. The author, Jenna Charlton, takes aim at the popular but flimsy “Highly Qualified”, and “Team Player” which both seem to pop up at least once in most resumes and cover letters. Perhaps the most important point Charlton makes is that these types of phrases “say it [but don’t] show it”.

Don’t settle for a passive resume! Say what you really need to say by analysing the job posting, and get out that thesaurus once in a while.

Charlton, J. “The most useless phrases in a resume.” Jan 31st, 2013.

What are employers looking for?

Great article written by Peter Harris at on what employers are looking for. Workopolis conducted a survey of Senior Executives around the country, and they found that most mentioned they were having trouble finding candidates with appropriate soft skills (communication skills, team work skills, etc.) Are you displaying your soft skills to the best of your ability? The old adage goes: Show, don’t tell. On your LinkedIn profile, mention successful presentations you’ve given, team projects you’ve worked on, etc. If you feel like you need some work on your soft skills, volunteering can be one of the most effective ways to practice things like small talk and team work. December is a particularly busy month for charitable organizations. Check out the Volunteer Toronto website to search for volunteer positions by activity, organization, or area.