The Cotton Factory used to be a mostly abandoned groups of buildings in Hamilton’s industrial sector, a remnant from a bygone era of manufacturing in the city. That all changed five years ago, when Laura and Robert Zeidler purchased the property on 270 Sherman Avenue North, transforming it into the vibrant centre for the arts that the are today. They’ve refurbished the boarded-up windows and empty rooms, turning the buildings into warm and welcoming community spaces filled with both artists studios and a coworking space.

“A lot of the doors on all of the artists’ studios have glass on them, most of the artists keep their doors open when they’re there so that there’s this really nice feeling of community in the building, which is what we’re really working at,” said Laura. “Another thing we work to develop and maintain the feeling of community in the building is places for collision. So little lounge areas, kitchenettes, all that kind of stuff, so that when they’re heating up their tea they start chit-chatting and finding those synergies to work together.”

The coworking spaces in The Cotton Factory allow people to connect with potential collaborators and build relationships with other artists. The buildings that were once empty are now buzzing with activity. The Zeidlers emphasize the importance of creating a space like this for the arts in the city.

“What we’re trying to do is provide space for creative things to happen. It’s not just artist studios with people going into their studios and doing art. What we’re trying to develop is a community, and that’s why we do [events] like ‘Explore the Cotton Factory’ where people can come and see the community, but also the people within the building can go around and see what’s happening in different peoples’ studios. We’re really trying to help support and show the community that’s in Hamilton and around,” said Zeidler.

Their work isn’t just limited to the buildings interior. The Zeidlers are working to promote the arts throughout the city. They have hosted the Hamilton Art Week Launch Party for the past two years running. They’ve had concerts with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra — one of Canada’s leading professional orchestras. They also hosted the Quilt of Belonging exhibit with Tourism Hamilton — a collaborative art project combining art from Canadians across the county. The Cotton Factory was even a venue for the Hamilton Fringe Festival this past year. Amongst other projects, they are collaborating with the Hamilton Arts Council on an Artist-in-Residence program.

“They’re assisting us with our Artist-in-Residence program . . . there’s a studio that we provide and Hamilton Arts Council helps choose the artists. There are two artists and they’re there for three months on a rotating basis and then once a year we have an artist from Europe come to stay — we actually have an Artist-in-Residence from Estonia right now,” said Zeidler. 

Through this program, The Cotton Factory provides resources for artists that may not otherwise have access to them, giving the creators the opportunity to focus on creating.

The Cotton Factory has created more than just a studio space. They have grown a community for creators and makers to call home. The Cotton Factory is a shining example of artistic expression in the city. They regularly host events for the community, and they provide a space for artists to express themselves freely. They will also be hosting the upcoming Work In Progress Art Exhibit, which is covered in more detail on the next page. If you have any interest in the arts, The Cotton Factory likely has something for you.

 

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By: Tanya Kett & Jillian Perkins Marsh

Some say that when they last attended a job fair employers told them to apply online, so they felt it was pointless to attend. If you have similar sentiments, I urge you to keep reading.

Employers may tell you to apply online (it does save paper!), but the real reason they are there is to get a sense of the person behind the resume that is submitted online — YOU.

Who are you? What do you have to offer? Why are you unique? Are you personable? Do you seem genuinely interested? What do you know about them? Answers to these questions can only be conveyed in an application to a certain extent. Make a real connection so that when your application does come across their desk, your name gets noticed.

How can you differentiate your application from other ones in the application pile?

Do your research. Explore the event website for the list of employers confirmed to attend and do some research on them before the event.

Tailor your elevator pitch. Make eye contact and shake their hand. Be bold, assertive, and with some confidence, introduce yourself. Tell them what you do or want to do, what you have to offer and why you are interested in them. Customize your pitch based on your research.

Ask useful questions. Based on your research, prepare some thoughtful questions to generate conversation after your introductions.

Be an active listener. Really listen to what they have to say; it is easy to start thinking ahead to what you will say next, but concentrate on being in the moment. After the conversation is over, jot down any suggestions they had for applicants before you forget.

Be ready to dig deeper. If you encounter an organization of interest that is not hiring in the area you are interested in, don’t despair. Remember that organizations recruit for many diverse roles and hiring timelines are often not predictable.

Invite to connect on LinkedIn. Visit your new contact’s profile and send your request from there, so you have an option to ‘Add a Note.’ Reference something from your conversation when you invite them to connect and thank them for their time in speaking with you at the event.

After you attend the event and employ the tactics above, you are ready to submit that online application. Don’t forget to mention the contact you spoke with at the Career Fair or Company Recruitment Event. Incorporate their suggestions and offer something you learned from them in your cover letter as part of why you are interested in applying.

Now imagine you did none of the above, just attended, had a few conversations and just applied online. Which application would you be most interested in?

 

Use what you’ve learned in this article at our SCENE networking night on March 21. This event is open to McMaster alumni and students in their final year. Register here: alumni.mcmaster.ca under Event Listings.

 

Read the full article on our Medium page.

 

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Photos C/O Nu Omega Zeta

By: Areej Ali

Nu Omega Zeta is a Black-focused sorority at McMaster that aims to support and enrich the Black community on campus and in Hamilton.

While the sorority was founded in September 2011, plans to launch Nu Omega Zeta were in the works months before the sorority’s founding date.

The seven Nu Omega Zeta founders first looked to Black Greek organizations in the United States, which provided a good perspective on how they should establish their own chapter.

For instance, today, the sorority pairs up new members with a ‘Big Sister’ who provides guidance and support.

The founding members first looked for an executive board and then created the symbols, guidelines and pillars that the sorority would stand for.

According to Eno Antai, the current president of Nu Omega Zeta, members do not need to identify as Black in order to join the sorority.

Nevertheless, the group is Black-focused, aspiring to “promote the growth and enrichment of Black undergraduate students and to enhance their education through the strengthening of the relationships within the Black community.”

In particular, Nu Omega Zeta stands for “Sisterhood, Volunteerism and Knowledge.”

Over the few years, members of the sorority have volunteered at Empowerment Squared, a Hamilton-based charity that seeks to empower marginalized and newcomer communities in Hamilton.

The sorority also runs campus events such as “Chance on Campus,” a one-day event that gives grade 10 and 11 students the opportunity to experience post-secondary life at McMaster and learn about the university’s organizations and academic and financial resources.

When I look back and think why I wanted to join Nu Omega Zeta, I remember feeling very isolated and alone on campus in my first year,” said Gabriela Roberta, a member of the sorority.

“I had no intentions of joining a sorority. However, Nu Omega Zeta was the first and only organization to reach out to me and make me feel as though my fears are not only my own,” said Roberts.

Roberts added that the sorority immersed her in a community of women that truly understood her struggles and concerns.

She strongly feels that Nu Omega Zeta has been a transformative life experience.

For Jet'aime Fray, another member of Nu Omega Zeta, the sorority means sisterhood. Fray explains that the sorority has allowed for her to create long lasting friendships and has given her a unique opportunity to volunteer in Hamilton.

In a society that refuses to acknowledge Black women, having a space that allows you to be unapologetically who you are and celebrates you is very needed,” said Antai, who feels that the space Nu Omega Zeta provides to acknowledge Black women is much needed and can give many students a home away from home.

Julianne Providence joined Nu Omega Zeta for precisely this reason.

I saw it as a space where I could belong. I had seen the ladies on campus and admired the connections they had with each other,” said Providence.

Omega Zeta hosts a number of initiatives throughout the year, including rush events, parties, relationship summits, workshops, networking events about education and support in the Black community and a ‘World AIDS Day’ panel discussion.

Students interested in attending these events or becoming a part of the sorority can get more information on Nu Omega Zeta’s website.

 

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By: Jillian Perkins-Marsh, alumni career counsellor 

For folks who are trying to figure out what an occupation is really like before taking the leap or for those trying to build their connections to help with their job search efforts, informational interviews can be extremely helpful. Really, what is better than one-on-one time with someone who can offer you career advice at minimum, and at the end of the spectrum, if all goes well, someone who may offer to pass along your resume to the right people and tell you about unadvertised jobs?

Informational interviews can be a highly effective way to build connections. If the meetings are done right, they can be an amazing way to make a positive first impression with a professional in your field of interest.

Be sure to be genuine in your interest in connecting and to follow up – and avoid the pitfall of ‘transactional networking’. The idea that networking is about focusing on the number of interactions, rather than the quality of the relationships. This is absolutely not what effective networking should involve. Life gets busy. But that is no excuse for not staying in touch and responding to others in a timely way…especially when you initiated the connection.

Try and think from the other person’s perspective. After you reach out to the person you were referred to in a timely manner, remember to circle back to your original contact to update them about your conversation and thank them again. Completing the networking circle will maintain relationships and not leave them wondering if you ever followed up with their suggestion.

These are the kind of recommendations that can help you turn a good strategy for building and using your network into a good and successful strategy for building and using your network, and that can make all the difference.

If you are looking to build your network and don’t know where to start, visit Firsthand, our online networking and mentorship platform. On Firsthand you will find McMaster alumni ready to have career conversations with you and give you advice on how to land a job in the industry of your dreams.

Visit mcmaster.firsthand.co to create your profile today, and potentially find your career match! It’s free, easy to use and right at your fingertips.  Any questions at all, email elnaien@mcmaster.ca.

Watch for upcoming employer – student networking event on March 14 – part of Career Month!

 

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By: William Alexander

On Sept. 22nd, over 114 employers gathered in the David Braley Athletic Center for McMaster’s Career Fair, an annual event that aims to bridge the gap between students and the workforce. The Student Success Center also provided several free services, including a professional LinkedIn photo shoot, a career advising booth, and a resumé critiquing service.

Finding a job can be a daunting task, especially when a university degree can only get you so far. The Career Fair provides a sense of what employers are out there in the Hamilton community, what they are like, and who they are looking for. It’s also a good way for students who have never been employed to start developing connections and references.

“A degree is very important, but experiences and skills are just as important. It’s also an opportunity for you to see if you fit with that organization's culture,” said Gisela Oliveira, manager of Career and Employment at the Student Success Center, and the organizer of the fair.

She explained that some employers present had hired hundreds of McMaster alumni in the time that they had been recruiting at the fair and through job offers posted on OscarPlus.

Employers from all fields attended the Career Fair, from startup companies founded by McMaster graduates to the City of Hamilton. Between them, they offered positions to students from all faculties and programs.

Shawn Ilse, CEO and co-founder of Flyte Studios, had a booth at the fair. He came looking for students with experience in HTML5 to help program games for an educational gaming platform that his company built.

“They don’t need to be able to know everything, we can help them, you know, learn those extra things that they need to know,” said Ilse.

If you missed the career fair and are interested in entrepreneurship, Ilse advised to visit McMaster’s startup incubator, The Forge and Innovation Factory in Hamilton, which both strive to help new businesses by providing training and resources.

On September 25 and 26 between 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. McMaster’s Student Centre will be center stage for a plethora of organizations from across Hamilton. Nearly 75 vendors will take over the Student Centre atrium in hopes of exposing students to the need for volunteers in the Hamilton community.

This year marks the 8th annual Community Engagement and Volunteer Fair with a record-breaking number of young activists expected to turn out. Spread out over two days, the Volunteer Fair will expose students to a multitude of local agencies, from small grassroots to globally recognized organizations all hoping to team up with students to make a difference in the greater community.

The fair promises to be even larger this year, as the Student Success Centre has recently announced its collaboration with the Faculty of Social Sciences and Experiential Education.

This new partnership will give students access to a wider variety and higher volume of agencies across Hamilton. “The [Student Success Centre] has more relationships and partners in the community,” said Angela Fortino, Employer Relations Officer at the Student Success Centre. “This year the fair is full, plus we have organizations on the waiting list.”

More relationships within the community mean more opportunities for students to find the right volunteer position for them.

Students will not only have the opportunity to interact with big brand organizations such as United Way and Red Cross, but also a more diverse set of niche organizations this year.

“We get agencies that meet a particular need in the community that is pretty unique… You’re able to tap into different aspects of the community,” said Adam Kuhn, Student Success Centre Manager.

And with the Student Success Centre on board, a higher volume of students are expected to take notice and be aware of the event.

“The Student Success Centre has more retail access across campus to reach a higher volume of students,” explained Kuhn.

The Volunteer Fair is essentially a mass-networking project with a dual focus. It gives students a means of networking with volunteer organizations, and it allows local agencies a means of recruiting essential volunteers through a single, two-day event.

Volunteering is one means of expanding your professional Rolodex as a student, simply by means of networking. It’s is also a good way of establishing credibility and rapport, which can potentially act as leverage into a full time position. Students can use volunteer positions to build their resumes, linking their volunteer work to their field of academic study, and potential future occupation.

“[Volunteering] can affirm your career goals and passions or it can challenge your assumptions,” noted Kuhn on the benefits of volunteering.

The Volunteer Fair presents an opportunity for students to connect with a diverse range of local agencies in hopes of finding the right niche regardless of passion, career goal, or area of interest.

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