The Beginning: LYP Scholarship Application
I participated in the Live Your Potential: Women's Leadership and Career Development program (LYP) in February 2017. I saw an ad for the program and its scholarship application around Christmas time on LinkedIn. I immediately took interest as it marketed the growth of skills that I wanted to further develop such as leadership and communication. It also seemingly allowed opportunities for career planning and personal branding that I had aspired to do at the time. I clicked on the scholarship application link and quickly applied-- the whole process took less than half an hour. In short of two weeks, I heard back from Jean Kim, one of the founders of LYP, and we spoke on the phone for an interview.
I was shortlisted for the scholarship and never did receive it, but I don't regret having paid out of my pocket to participate in the program. The program took place over 2.5 days: two full days over a weekend and follow-up a panel discussion with guest speakers and a live opportunity to put your newly developed networking skills to the test. It delivered the results that it was marketed to achieve and more. Jean and Lilit Simoyan, with differing expertise and experiences, sensitively and passionately guided the group of 10 women in the room through explorations of our honest desires for career advancement, confidence growth, and the ability to negotiate our professional demands without "feeling sorry."
To introduce the experience and programming (that words alone won't do justice to), the lessons comprised of carefully researched concepts that can be used as tools for self-motivation, increasing confidence, recognizing the need for women's leadership in the workplace, and defining your own goals ambitiously. They were excellently delivered by Jean, who works as a Global Communications Strategist and Coach with a doctorate in Language and Literacy Education (UBC), and Lilit, who has over 14 years of experience in government and non-profit organizations from more than 40 countries and works as a Senior Policy Analyst at the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services.
The aims of personal and group exercises were more practical and applicable to day-to-day career settings like speaking in public under pressure to observe and change our public speaking weaknesses, scrutinizing and receiving personalized consultation on our LinkedIn profiles, sharing honest and empathetic conversations about our personal and professional challenges, and putting our negotiation and networking skills to the test.
Personal Benefits as a Student + Starting Freelancer
Personally, I benefitted from the program as a full-time graduate student, who was looking to upstart and diversify her freelance career as a Writer and Communications Specialist. Jean's detailed advice regarding my personal branding, hearing about opportunities through other women in the program, and being challenged to think more deeply about what it is that I want out of this new career experience were hugely helpful. Additional benefits that I received include: realizing my repressed fears about taking ambitious risks (I have taken several since the program; you can read about them here), receiving much needed encouragement, walking away with a supportive sisterhood of LYP alumni and a fantastic accountability partner, Francoise Yesaya Keddy, AND a surge of confidence to take charge of my aspirations, academically and professionally.
Recommendations to Other Graduate Students
The skills that I developed through this program have also helped me in my career as a PhD student. It has allowed me to write more convincing and effective grant applications, research proposals, and cover letters; as well, the public speaking exercises helped with conference presentations and professional networking with professors and fellow graduate students. As these types of soft- and professional- skills development programs are lacking in academia, in nearly every discipline despite the increasing lack of academic jobs available and the growing number of students transitioning to find alternative-to-academic jobs, the LYP program quenched a thirst that I had for this type of support.
The Money Talk
Finally, one consideration to make as a participant to the LYP program is the financial decision to invest anywhere between $450 (student early-bird pricing) to $875 (non-student regular pricing) for the 2.5 day program. A few comments about this financial cost as a participant who has invested in the program: 1) it is worth it, if not for the program in itself, for the alumni-network and post-program events thereafter, 2) you can ask your graduate program or company to subsidize or sponsor your participation (as many programs and companies have allocated funds for professional development; you can personally message Jean or Lilit to ask advice regarding this), and 3) there IS a sponsorship opportunity currently to apply and attend the May workshop for FREE.
HEARTFELT ADVICE: DO TAKE THE PROGRAM
In closing, I write this blog post, as Jean, who has been a wonderfully supportive mentor that leads by example, has asked me recently to share an ad about the LYP scholarship opportunity on LinkedIn-- funnily, the very same link that drew me to this program more than a year ago. I replied that I was happy to do so, but realized as I was trying to share that it is hard to do justice to my deep feelings and recommendations for the program with a simple memo as a tagline to the link. So, here is my personal and candid review. If you are considering on participating, long-story-short, I highly recommend it and invite you anytime to talk to me to receive more information about my experience.