Dalhousie graduate helps promote Halifax jobs

Work Local aims to help recent graduates find employment and stay in the province. Yesterday, Work Local started working with the Halifax Partnership.

Finding a good job in your field can be difficult. Finding a good job in your relevant field in Halifax is even more difficult. Work Local is a free website designed to help.

Work Local allows users to submit video interview questions along with their job applications. The business has grown quickly since launching in January and is now working with the Halifax Partnership.

Leslie Gallagher, founder and owner of Work Local, says a site like hers is needed.

“I went to Dalhousie and am from Halifax, so when I graduated a lot of my friends left because they couldn’t find a good job, something meaningful or relevant to their education or what they wanted to do,” she said.

Gallagher, an English and creative writing major, wasn’t impressed with the online hiring procedures she experienced as a student and young professional. She felt that many job search websites focused on specific requirements and didn’t allow users to showcase their strongest qualities.

After conducting extensive research into the hiring procedures of small businesses, Gallagher discovered that many companies were frustrated with the hiring process too.

“If employers were able to see (the candidates) or even bring them in for an interview then they would hold on for dear life, but when they first get the resumé in then they are lost in the stack,” said Gallagher.

When clients submit their resumés, cover letters and required documents to a Work Local job posting, the site prompts them to record a three-minute video in response to specific interview questions provided by the employer.

The video allows employers to see if the person would be a good fit for their workplace.

“Finding somebody that their personality meshes really well with the rest of the team is just as important as hard skills, because they can teach you all of those hard skills. You can’t teach anybody to be a great team player or be really patient, or a leader or a risk-taker. It’s those sorts of things that you can’t get across with a resumé,” said Gallagher.

The list of job postings on Work Local ranges from graphic designers to personal trainers and accounting clerks.

Under the arrangement with the Halifax Partnership, Work Local will promote the Connector Program, a free face-to-face referral process that works with recent graduates and young professionals.

Program manager Denise DeLong said each participant is paired with a “local connector who is a leader in their field,” and the two of them have a 30-minute chat. After the initial meeting, participants are then given three other referrals, who in turn give three more referrals.

“This person would, over a span of a few months, meet 12 or 13 people in their industry. This is a tool for building a professional network, and one in three last year got hired in the process,” said DeLong.

Gallagher is one of these experts, or connectors. She stresses the importance of making connections when it comes to navigating the Halifax job market.

“Get engaged in the community outside of the university,” she said.

“If you know the area you’re interested in working in or learning more about, then find somebody that is somehow involved in that area and ask them to go for coffee. That’s it.”

From calculus to couture: engineering student starts fashion business

Mahtab Cherom Kheirabadi has found a way to link her engineering education to her passion for fashion.

To many, earning a degree in industrial engineering may not be the obvious way to become a fashion designer.

However, this is not the case for Mahtab Cherom Kheirabadi. The 26 year-old Iranian-Canadian is in her last semester of engineering at Dalhousie University, and has just launched an online fashion startup Peonies & Snow.

While an engineering degree may seem like it would provide very little background to creating a fashion business, Cherom Kheirabadi has found the two to be linked.

“When I started liking fashion I was obsessed with shapes and angles and edges and that started when I was doing calculus. So all my clothing is very related to that because I put a lot of engineering and mathematical things that I learned into designing them,” she said.

Featuring her own handmade designs, Peonies & Snow has been Cherom Kheirabadi’s own creation, from sketching the first designs two years ago through to this month’s launch.

These initial sketches have now become reality: form-fitting, pastel-hued businesses dresses, silky pink robes and skirts with intricate bow detailing are now all for sale on the Peonies & Snow website.

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The link between industrial engineering and design has proved to be a convenient one for Cherom Kheirabadi, yet there are many challenges that come with juggling a degree and a new business.

“To be honest, at first it was really, really stressful because you get demotivated in both things. You can get demotivated in school because you feel like you’re not concentrating on school and concentrating instead on the thing you love. The best way that I learned to organize them is to just set deadlines and caps, ‘If I complete these three I’ll work on my fashion for two hours,’” she said.

Cherom Kheirabadi’s love of fashion and design is not a new trend in her family. While she was encouraged to pursue her degree in engineering, she also comes from a long line of tailors.

“My mom’s a tailor, her mom was a tailor, all my aunts and her aunts were tailors so it goes way back and runs in the family, everyone’s a tailor but none of them had a business because it was just harder back in the day as a woman.”

Cherom Kheirabadi’s mother taught her the skills involved in creating clothes by hand, but also ensured that her daughter would know how to do each step herself, instead of simply showing her what to do.

After two years of developing her sewing skills and honing the specifics of the art, Cherom Kheirabadi now creates each item of clothing to her own measurements and then adapts the models to fit the proportions of each client.

With graduation looming Cherom Kheirabadi plans to devote herself to developing Peonies & Snow full-time.

“I know my parents definitely want me to do engineering, but personally I think I am putting everything that I learned in engineering into this, I want to really concentrate on it because I think it would be more successful if I give 100 per cent,” she said.

A view from the inside: Palestinian activist speaks about Israeli prisons

Mariam Barghouti lives in the West Bank. She’s been arrested three times and beaten by prison guards.

Mariam Barghouti is 21 years old. She studies English literature and philosophy, and is fluent in English and Arabic. While these traits might not sound different from many students in Halifax, that is where the similarities end.

Barghouti lives in the West Bank. She’s been arrested three times and beaten by prison guards. She’s also been published in the New York Times.

Speaking on Wednesday night in Halifax as part of a series of lectures for Israeli Apartheid Week, Barghouti described her personal experiences with Israeli prisons and the trying legal aspects of life as a Palestinian.

Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA), a student society at Dalhousie University, organized their first annual Israeli Apartheid Week and flew Barghouti to Halifax for her talk.

Israeli Apartheid Week is an international event, but this is its first year being hosted in Halifax. SAIA’s schedule for the week ranges from Barghouti’s talk on the Israeli prison system to an evening focusing on Palestinian art, music and poetry.

While Barghouti’s talk was highly critical of the Israeli prison system and of the difficulties that Palestinians face because of Israeli courts and legislation, her primary focus was on her personal reflections.

Barghouti attended her first protest at age 17, at an event asking for unity within the Palestinian government.

“When you’re 17 you don’t understand the consequences, you just have this idealistic perspective that you want to make the world a better place and that you’re so strong and you’re invisible, and then slowly the consequences begin hitting you,” she said.

Last April, Barghouti was arrested at a protest and charged with stone throwing, which she says was a fabricated charge. Barghouti was detained for seven days and says she spent much of that time being shackled and verbally harassed.

Barghouti asked the audience at Dalhousie’s Sir Charles Tupper building to close their eyes and imagine themselves in her shoes as she described the conditions in prison. Click on the link below to listen:

 

During Barghouti’s imprisonment, she composed a poem and memorized it, so that she would be able to write down the words upon her release.

“I like to think of myself as someone who knows how to utilize words. When I got out I read the poem and it was like me becoming a child again. I realized that that’s me regressing and that’s what the military system does: it takes inspired youth and drains them of any energy,” she said. Listen to her poem below:

 

Barghouti’s talk was met with thunderous applause and numerous questions from the audience.

Dina Lobo, a member of SAIA, emphasized the importance of Barghouti coming to speak at Israeli Apartheid Week.

“We needed a Palestinian voice, especially since she’s young. We have a lot of experts speaking, we have a lot of professors speaking, but it’s really important for a Palestinian to speak about her personal experiences,” said Lobo.

Reaction from Jewish groups

While SAIA’s events have been met with great enthusiasm from many of their attendees, Jewish groups on campus have criticized SAIA for its choice of name.

Arielle Branitsky, director of Jewish Student Life at Hillel of Atlantic Canada, said “calling yourself against Israel Apartheid is complicated for us, and it doesn’t say we want to have a peaceful conversation, it says we are against you and we want you to disappear.”

While the week’s events have been vocal in their condemnation of many Israeli actions, there has not been any conflict between SAIA and Dalhousie’s Jewish community.

“There have been events that we’ve sponsored, where members of Israel on Campus attended. Sometimes we get members who provide their side of the story at our events. As far as I know there hasn’t been any confrontation, any negative interaction. Of course we stand on different sides of the spectrum but at the end of the day it’s opinions,” said SAIA member Yazan Khader.

Yasmine Mucher, a member of Israel on Campus, reinforces this opinion.

“They have every right to their programming and we have every right to do ours and I don’t feel we need to counter what we’re doing, we both just need to keep doing what we’re doing to support our causes,” said Mucher.