For this week’s Employee Spotlight, where we feature the staff here and what they do, we have Yalini Vijayanathen, our Social Skills Specialist at The Storefront.
Name: Yalini Vijayanathen
Job Title: Social Skills Specialist
What do you do at The Storefront?
As a Social Skills Specialist, I provide access to the skills, tools and knowledge so that people are confident in their ability to engage effectively with people in the workplace and other team environments. This includes supporting people to practice their social interactions, liaising with trainers/coaches to align learning objectives, working closely with staff working with employers to understand the social skills required in a variety of sectors and disciplines and ensuring individual progress is appropriately documented.
Motto you like to go by?
“You don’t need to know how to swim to start swimming.” With me, if I don’t know something, I’ll jump in and figure it out rather than being too scared to “jump into the pool.” This is the mindset I try to go by with everything, whether it be new activities or projects.
How did you come to work at The Storefront?
I did my undergraduate degree in social sciences at York University. My job background was more towards administrative positions, but I always knew that I wanted to work at a non-profit organization. I always enjoyed working with people and had great emotional intelligence. When the opportunity arose, I decided that was the time to go into nonprofit and I have enjoyed every minute of it. From there, I took on contract positions at The Storefront. I started as the Resource Centre Steward, where I acted as the connection between the Employment Resource Centre and the Community Resource Centre. Afterwards, I became the Employment Resource and Admin Specialist, where I was essentially the first face that folks with employment needs would come across. I conducted the general assessments and consulted on their employment needs before redirecting them to the employment specialists at The Storefront. From there, I became the Community Employment Specialist, and now I am in my current role as a Social Skills Specialist.
What does it mean to you to be part of a Community Backbone organization?
I feel enlightened to be a part of a Community Backbone Organization because it leverages its relationships in the community to not only support and engage communities, but to also address topics like structural racism, and to advocate for systems and policy change. I feel proud to be part of a CBO as it is an organization that has the courage, capacity, and credibility to reinforce ideas, talents and resources to align goals and strategies. Leaders are comfortable talking about issues of race, equity, and inclusion to guide people through processes that turn ideas and inspiration into action and results. The Storefront has become a leader and champion in Community development and how to work from ground up, and it collaborates and shares the learnings, so that other organizations can follow in our path.
I like Nicholas Spark, who is the author of many romance novels, like The Notebook. Another author I enjoy reading is Jodi Picoult. She writes a lot about different relationships people have, whether it’s a romantic relationship or a family relationship.
What do you enjoy most about working at The Storefront?
There are numerous things I enjoy about working at The Storefront. I like the relationship aspect and the fact that The Storefront places people before products. I also like that everyone is given a chance to do more and learn more. I’m part of the teaching team, the Communications Committee, and the Joint Social Committee. All of this couldn’t have happened if The Storefront didn’t provide me the opportunity to grow and develop new skills.
Where is your favourite place to eat or your favourite food/cuisine?
I love Chinese food, especially wontons! I also love Sri Lankan Tamil cuisine, which is my culture. In fact, I am learning to cook more North Sri Lankan dishes so I can teach my children about their heritage and make them appreciate their culture.
What is a project that you are working on at The Storefront?
I’m always working on The Service Hub, which is not only a gathering place, but also offers support to local residents for employment searches, as well as connecting them to the services and programs they need. There, I provide workshops and training for people to increase their social skills.
Apart from your work at The Storefront, what are some hobbies you have outside of the office?
I like to spend my spare time reading and exploring reading materials. Now, I have also grown to like outdoors, nature and hiking! But my favourite pastime is enjoying a book with a hot cup of coffee!
If someone were looking to join the team at The Storefront, or looking for work in a role similar to yours or in the nonprofit sector in general, what advice would you have for them?
Don’t be picky and be willing to start at the bottom of the pole. Work hard and put yourself out there. Talk less, listen more, and show that you have a lot of passion and energy in the work that you are doing. Take any opportunity that comes your way!
Where would you like to travel to and why?
I would like to go back to Sri Lanka! I actually left Sri Lanka when I was three and haven’t had the chance to go back. I want to see my grandparent and other relatives, as well as see how Sri Lanka is today.
What is on your wish list for the next five years?
I hope to continue working at The Storefront and being able to get more opportunities to grow so that I can use those skills to contribute back to The Storefront and our community. I also want to expand my knowledge on facilitation and enhance my creative and critical thinking. In 5 years, I also hope to be in a leadership role within The Storefront, and be more driven and embedded within the Community Connected Approach.
I am also planning to study more and develop my knowledge, to be added value to the nonprofit sector. I started a program in real estate and am hoping to complete the program and obtain the license and launch a side hustle with it!