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Dream team of employment experts share tips and advice at #ImpactCOVID webinar

June 26, 2020

Do you know how you could leverage your time to enhance your employability? 

Could you use concrete advice on to prepare for the post-COVID employment landscape?

These are the questions that were explored during the recent Employment and Employability webinar, part of the #ImpactCOVID series hosted by Opportunity For All Youth and the Canadian Council for Youth Prosperity

As the world begins to slowly rebound from the economic effects of COVID-19, industry experts Raj Uttamchandani, Chief People Officer, MaRS Discovery District, Tiffany Donaldson, Talent Acquisition Manager, The Source and Akosua Alagaratnam, Interim Executive Director, First Work shared advice on how the youth panelists can best manage the advancement of their professional careers.

The panel consisted of three youth who spoke about the impact COVID-19 has made on their professional careers and what they’re doing to address them.

Before losing her job, Sarah was employed at the same company for five years. Now, she plans to start her own business, but the challenge of learning what she needs to know and managing a family is an obstacle that she is working through.

Tiffany Donaldson and Raj Uttamchandani had some advice to offer.

“Schedule around family time to ensure you get the time you need to work, learn, plan and execute. It can be very difficult managing both but discipline and organization can help a lot with getting things done.  Take small steps daily towards your goal.  If the steps are too big it may be difficult if not impossible to achieve.  You want to create moments of achievement for yourself not moments of regret or doubt,” Donaldson said.

“Have a long-term view on who you are and what you want to do. Find out what really drives you, what you enjoy doing and a path on where you want to go. Log on to myplanext help you with this,” Uttamchandani said. 


Tony was a freelance cinematographer but since the pandemic, all production has stopped and opportunities have dried up. “It’s hard because most of our job as a freelancer is interacting with people, building long lasting relationships,” he explained.

“It’s scary because you don’t know where the next [paycheque] is going to come from” he added. 

Tony is leveraging his free time to sharpen his skills by taking online courses and he encourages others to do the same. “There’s a lot of education online. Every single day, take 10 minutes to try something new,” he said. 

“Tap into the relationships that you have and ask for referrals or opportunities.  Navigate various online platforms like LinkedIn for example. Build an online presence and portfolio that would be easy to share online.  Think of ways to pivot the services you offer to the businesses that would benefit from your skill set. This may create a new direction for you or expand your skill set!” said Donaldson. 

“While people are home, this is an amazing opportunity to do virtual networking. Start mining LinkedIn and connect with HR reps. Arrange for “virtual coffees” with your connections. This way you’ll have a connection if a job in that company opens up,” said Uttamchandani.


DeVanie was working as an animal care attendant before deciding to pursue a degree in criminal justice. Since the pandemic, DeVanie explained that it had become increasingly difficult to continue her studies. 

“I’m not a person that learns well on their own,” DeVanie said. She has since taken time off school and focusing on caring for her kids and her mother, but she regrets taking a break from school. 

“Speak to your professors to see if you can arrange a reduced course load,” was her advice to those who are having difficulty transitioning to online learning. 

“The pandemic has been such a challenging time and everyone will need to figure out what works best for them, sometimes slowing down your pace and focusing on what you can do might help.  If you can, talk to your teachers about how they can support some of the needs you have,” advised Donaldson.

Trust yourself to make the right decisions, sometimes it may not be what you want but moreover what you need. Be patient with yourself.  Again, ask for help or support if you can,” she added. 


The expert panel also shared some practical tips and advice to share with the audience. Here is a synopsis below: 

Tiffany Donaldson, Talent Acquisition Manager, The Source

  • Communication – replying to emails, text message correspondence and timely replies on correspondence, is a valuable asset.
  • Ask for help when crafting your resume and with the interview process. [Editor’s note: there are Community Service Providers to assist with this, click here to find one near you]. 
  • Candidates must be passionate about people and leadership for training, coaching and growing/building with others. 
  • For interviews, The Source uses Whatsapp video calls and Zoom. For youth, most people have access to video cameras or computers/tablets.


Raj Uttamchandani, Chief People Officer, MaRS Discovery District

  • Companies have always been adaptive – During COVID-19 there are a ton of companies hiring, there are sectors that are picking up. The world hasn’t stopped moving but it’s very different. This is an amazing time to perfect interview skills. 
  • Don’t look at the job for what it gets you but for what it gets you next. Be conscious about the choices you are making. [Editor’s note: for more on this, see our Highlighting Potential blog]. 
  • There’s a shift – companies used to be focused on profit, now we are in the area of social consciousness and there will be a shift from a caring economy to virtual.
  • Candidates that are well-prepared for the interview always stand out–start preparing for interviews now, not just the day before.


Akosua Alagaratnam, Interim Executive Director, First Work

  • Using Tik Tok and other technologies that you don’t necessarily think to use can increase your employability.
  • MS Office skills i.e. powerpoint are gold.

“The year 2020 has really brought for us both challenges and opportunities to change the future of work,” Alagaratnam said. 

“For youth this year will be an opportunity to start creating the environment you want to see, and seek the career path that you want – this will be dependent on of course upskilling and your employability.  As restrictions start lifting, having the ability to build your skills sets ensuring you have the basics down. Build on your basic skill set and then utilize free resources available to you to prepare yourself for the economy post-covid. It’s happening now,” she continued. 


Here is a list of resources shared by our panelists at the webinar: 

First Work Ontario’s youth employment centre locator 

Type in your postal code to find a youth employment centre in your area. 

Align by Magnet

Post your resume and get matched with opportunities from employers in your region.


A tool by Google and MaRS to help you navigate the future of work by connecting them with the latest statistics about automation risk, transferrable skills,and job training.

IBM Skills Gateway 

The IBM training and certifications offers you the ability to earn credentials to demonstrate your expertise.  


The Employment and Employability webinar was held by Opportunity For All Youth and the Canadian Council for Youth Prosperity on May 22nd with CCYP’s Chris Duff serving as moderator for the event.

For more information about resources or to share your story, please contact us here


Watch the full video here:

Posted by Opportunity For All Youth on Friday, May 22, 2020


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