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Intern of Influence: Adding Confidence to your Toolbox

BY CARRIE FISCHER

I am always inspired by the Women of Influence keynote speakers and magazine contributors. They give practical advice that truly resonates with me. If I could manage to somehow translate my enthusiasm into actually TELLING these women how much they influence me…that would be fantastic.

I began interning at Women of Influence in October 2013. My reluctance to step out of my comfort zone was holding me back from connecting with women role models at our events. By February I was working on the magazine full time—reading about some of North America’s most prominent women leaders and entrepreneurs—getting inspired by personal success stories. This, combined with working at several events, has led to my break-through: I have introduced myself to some of Toronto’s most influential and accomplished women.

This happened on April 30, 2014, where 900 guests arrived at the Hilton in downtown Toronto for the Deloitte Women of Influence luncheon. The keynote speaker? Kathleen Taylor, Chair of the RBC Board of Directors, and the first woman to lead the Board of a major Canadian chartered bank.

Every day we have to get up and try to be our ‘best’ self” – Kathleen Taylor, Chair of RBC, speaks to a sold out Women of Influence audience on April 30, 2014 in Toronto. Photography by Kevin Gonsalves.

I first saw Lynn Posluns, President and Founder of the Women’s Brain Health Initiative in the reception area. Lynn is a Women of Influence keynote speaker—travelling across Canada with our Women and Health Panel educating women how to battle stress and make health a top priority. Amongst my excitement and nerves I managed to tell her how I enjoyed covering her event for the Spring issue; I learned that although 70% of Alzheimer’s victims will be women, there is gender bias in brain medical research (female hormones are considered “too complex”). I wish I had more time with her but the event was about to start.

As I ushered guests into the venue I saw Isabel Bassett and stepped forward to lead her to her table. Ms. Bassett is a Canadian broadcaster and former politician. I introduced myself and confessed she had my favourite line in our upcoming Summer issue. In reference to people’s discomfort with the opportunistic side of networking, Ms. Bassett says, “Get over yourself. You also have things to contribute.” I loved her no-nonsense approach. “I think it’s something more young people need to hear more often,” she told me. “You just need to have confidence and walk up to someone and say ‘hello.’” I didn’t realize I was putting her words into action until after I walked her to her seat.

The luncheon began, and my strongest takeaway from Ms. Taylor’s speech is that confidence leads to action. “Confidence needs to be part of your talent toolbox if you’re going to break barriers,” she said. If I wanted to advance professionally, I needed to check my shyness at the door and get some confidence into my skill set.

After the luncheon, I sought out to meet Lisa Heidman, Senior Client Partner from The Bedford Consulting Group. Lisa writes a series column in every issue and I had spoken to her on the phone and in emails, but I wanted her to put a face to my name. Lisa was very gracious and approachable—we even got a chance to discuss business regarding the magazine! Why had I been so nervous to introduce myself?

As the room emptied, I met my final woman of influence: Dr. Vivien Brown. Dr. Brown is on the cover of our Spring 2014 issue and, along with Lynn, is on the Women and Health Panel. I finally got my chance to communicate my big takeaways from her event back in March. It only took me two months, but I did it! (You have to celebrate the little wins, right?!)

I started at Women of Influence as a shy intern and now I’m walking up to women I’d love to meet and starting a conversation. Networking may come naturally to some, but for me it took more time and encouragement. I realized if I didn’t have confidence and believe that I was someone worth meeting, then who would?

It’s like Ms. Taylor said, “we are the architects of our careers.” I needed to make a change to get the result I wanted. It really was that simple.


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