Competitions, such as Impact Apprentice, are a great way to showcase your talent

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Today’s job market, if you haven’t noticed, is extremely competitive. Having work experience definitely helps in obtaining a job as does extracurricular involvement. That being said, top employers are looking for the best and brightest, and are willing to search far and wide for worthy candidates.

Standing out in such an environment can be tough. But, a great way to set yourself apart is getting involved in national conferences and competitions.

If you’re not familiar with these kinds of events, here are just some of the reasons why you should consider attending:

  • Opportunity to meet students from across Canada or even the world
  • See how your acumen compares to other like-minded students
  • Network with employers and corporate sponsors
  • Learn through competing in a time-sensitive environment
  • Apply classroom knowledge in real-life or simulated scenarios
  • Enhance your post-secondary experience
  • A chance to travel to new places
  • Awesome prizes

There are conferences and competitions that focus on just about anything. You can search online and you’re likely to find something that catches your attention. If you’re still not sold on the benefits of conferences and competitions or if you’re curious as to how they work, this week I’ll be giving you an exclusive inside look at the esteemed Impact Apprentice 2010 competition.

For those of you who haven’t already heard about it, Impact Apprentice is Canada’s premier business competition, where Canada’s top 32 post-secondary students compete in real-life business challenges in the hopes of becoming the next “Apprentice.”

Impact Apprentice debuted in 2006 in Ottawa and continued the following year in Vancouver. Today, Impact Apprentice has grown to include applicants from universities across Canada who are united by their passion for innovation and their pursuit of excellence.

This competition is the only Donald Trump “Apprentice”-style competition of its kind in Canada, and offers students a unique opportunity to test themselves while utilizing their wide-ranging skills. It is organized by the Impact Entrepreneurship Group, which is Canada’s largest non-profit, student-run organization dedicated to encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit amongst youth in Canada. Impact’s mission is to create the next generation of entrepreneurs and help young entrepreneurs realize their true potential.

In order to qualify for this well-regarded competition, prospective participants completed a three-stage application process which included an online entry, a video submission and an hour-long phone interview.

During this process, the hundreds of applicants were narrowed down to the final 32 competitors. From August 23-26 these competitors will be in downtown Toronto competing in four days of real-life business challenges and interacting with Impact corporate sponsors and students from across Canada.

Teams of eight will work together on challenges focused on four major areas of business and entrepreneurship: marketing, sales, negotiation, and innovation. Groups will be assessed on their performance in each challenge and will be awarded points accordingly. The group with the highest number of points at the end of the competition will be the winner.

In addition to the experience it provides, Impact offers over $10,000 worth of prizes and winning team members typically secure internships with corporate sponsors after the competition. In the past these sponsors have included a wide range of companies and organizations including Microsoft, RIM, Telus, Direct Energy, Travel Cuts, BC Hydro, Harry Rosen and Nestle. This year, they have a great line up of sponsors including Strutta, Student Awards, KMPG, Wal Mart Canada and— of course—TalentEgg!

As well as providing prizes and internship opportunities, many of these sponsors created challenges that were featured in past Impact Apprentice competitions. One of the most exciting tasks that competitors faced was that of managing a Telus store for a day, where teams had to use their creativity and marketing skills to sell Telus’s products. Each team worked against the clock to come up with unique, innovative strategies to capture attention and close the sale. Many of the teams did extremely well in this competition, with one of them managing to increase their store’s daily sales by an amazing 400%.

Sponsors help to make Impact Apprentice possible through their donations and willingness to let the students “take the reins”. In return, they are continuously amazed by the professionalism of our competitors as well as the quality of their business challenge solutions.

Past Impact Apprentice competitors have come from a broad range of backgrounds, and have gone on to hold a multitude of different careers. Toronto native Vijaya Selvaraju, a competitor from Impact Apprentice 2006, is the first international, on-camera Presenter for ProjectExplorer.org; a NYC-based, award-winning travel series for children. She cites Impact Apprentice in helping develop her global business perspective.

Another past competitor is Greg Overholt, who is the founder and executive director of the national student-led social venture SOS: Students Offering Support. Students Offering Support supports local SOS chapters residing in universities across Canada who offer SOS’s interactive ‘Exam- AID’ group review session to their peers, and use the proceeds for sustainable educational projects in developing nations.

This year’s participants are just as interesting and driven, and I’ll be introducing you to during the Impact Apprentice competition this week. I’ll also be writing about the competition challenges and the success stories as these 32 competitors work towards becoming Impact’s next Apprentice.

While it’s too late to apply to Impact Apprentice 2010, you can start looking into other competitions and conferences that fit in with your interests and abilities, right away. After all, when you consider the wide-ranging benefits – growing your skill set, building connections with employers and other future leaders, and learning about various professions – why wouldn’t you want to get involved in an opportunity that can lead to a truly unique work opportunity?

You can find more about Impact Apprentice at www.impact.org/apprentice.

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About the author

Valerie Aguiar is a graduate from the Management Co-op Program at the University of Toronto Scarborough and winner of the 2011 EWO Co-op Student of the Year award. Valerie works in sales at Nestle Canada, where she also completed a co-op term. Outside of work, Valerie is actively involved with a youth program for middle school children.