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Marija Gajic

Marija Gajic

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Marija Gajic

IEP alumnus Marija Gajic

Business - Marketing Stream

Undergraduate Program Assistant
University of Toronto

A Spanish language and Hispanic literature professor from Serbia, Marija Gajic loved working with students in an academic environment. She was looking forward to working in her field in Canada. She quickly realized that once in Canada she would need to upgrade her skills as well as Canadian education to become competitive in the Toronto job market.

After arriving in 2015, she found work outside of her field: “It was not my dream job, but I will always appreciate the opportunity and the Canadian experience that I gained there.” While upgrading her French skills at Collège Boréal, a York University IEP Bridging Program graduate told her about the program and what it could offer her. “My first thought was that the program could help me connect with people and help expand my professional network. It would also give me a chance to study at a Canadian university.”

Looking back now, Marija says that with the program she accomplished all of that and even more. In the program she learned and developed a greater appreciation for Canadian multiculturalism. We speak often about the value that our IEP students bring to employers, including the diversity of perspectives, experience and skills. Marija explains how the program helped her see this value: “Meeting people from many other countries helped me to better understand the diversity around me and how to interact more effectively with people. In some of the courses I took, they particularly explained the importance of different cultural frameworks from different societies, including different management cultures and styles. I began to learn and to understand people around me better, and how to respond more effectively to them. The program helped me to learn more effective communication skills in Canada.”

Beyond core courses, Marija also took advantage of specific skill training we offer. She says that taking Intermediate and Advanced Excel was one of the best decisions she made. In the interview for her current job, she had to demonstrate advanced knowledge of Excel!

Beyond the courses, Marija also took advantage of other supports the program offers, such as Career Coaching and Mentoring. Illustrating the tenacity, persistence and determination we find in all our IEP students, Marija was committed to doing everything she could to find her dream job.

Career coaching sessions helped Marija to improve her overall job search approach, including enhancing her LinkedIn profile. She was particularly interested in finding opportunities at the University of Toronto, and her Career Coach was extremely helpful. She also took advantage of networking events and the Mentorship Program. “I wanted to network and connect with anyone who could give advice, even people out of my field. I exposed myself to as many people and ideas as possible to explore and expand my horizons.”

Her mentor, who works at the University of Toronto, was instrumental in tailoring her resume for University of Toronto positions. She also connected Marija with her professional network at the University where she got important insights about the University's workplace culture and how to tailor her resume for University recruiters.

The insights paid off. She applied for University positions in July 2017, had an interview in December, and started working at the University of Toronto in February 2018 as an Undergraduate Assistant.

“I am so grateful for this program,” Marija says. She says that the close relationships and network she built at York University were particularly important. Her job search was emotionally draining and physically demanding. She found her network became very important for her to lean on, and they were there for her. Marija says that businessman Jim Rohn's advice resonates with her: “You’re the average of the five people you spend most of your time with.” She found it continued to be true in her experience in the program. “It was very important to have someone's support, someone who can really understand you,” she says. With her classmates, Career Coach and Mentor, she surrounded herself with the type of people she wanted to be.

Her advice to other newcomers is to take advantage of the supports available, not to lose your sense of humour or hope even in your most difficult times: “The road is not straight, it gets curvy, it gets bumpy. Stay positive, stay well centred towards your goal and you'll get there.”

Echoing Rohn's idea, Marija advises employers to take advantage of the benefits of hiring IEPs. Newcomers bring valuable skills, perspectives, insights and approaches from other cultures and countries. They also truly appreciate what Canada has to offer. They're motivated to succeed, she says: “They're very willing to take risks, to try something new. They are not complacent, not reluctant to change. They're the type of people who will bring a lot of value to a Canadian workplace that a potential employer can benefit a lot from. They will for sure show initiative, because they already showed it many years ago when they left everything they had and changed their lives completely.” They simply need an opportunity.

Marija is one of hundreds of students who participate in York’s IEP Bridging Programs for HR, IT and Business professionals. This program offers a ready pool of talent and staff eager to help employers connect and advertise opportunities at no-cost to them.