"your world expands depending on the level of your courage."
As part of the Teenacers’ series on how young professionals and young adults can help teens, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amrit Sandhu, of CSI Models Vancouver. Amrit Sandhu was born in Singapore as the youngest of 3. He immigrated to Canada in 2000 where he continued his public education. He obtained his Bachelor Degree from the University of Calgary in 2016 prior to his transition to Vancouver where he currently resides. Amrit is an Actor and the Vice President of CSI Models Vancouver (est. 1982); one of the longest running modeling houses in Canada. He has portrayed multifarious characters in films from MTV to CBC, and his latest in work in, Roobha. In 2020, Amrit joined the cast of, “Qi: Spacetime Warriors”, a sci-fi actioner trilogy as, “Rahul Smith”, directed by Hollywood’s, Andy Cheng and Jessie Kerry. In addition, Amrit is the Director of Faces West International (est. 1993), one of North America’s most celebrated Model and Talent Conventions celebrating its 28th year. Further, Amrit is on the council board for the North American Model Association (est. 1999), an internal organization which enhances the ethical practise and professionalism within the modeling industry. Following in 2020, Amrit developed an extensive modeling curriculum for one of Vancouver’s most prestigious art schools, the Vancouver International School of Music where he will be an educator for the institution, offering leadership and development for young teens and adults looking to propel in the entertainment industry. In his now 12 years of experience, Amrit has developed 350+ Models who began their careers as teens and young adults; many who have graced the pages of our favourite magazines and international runways. He continues to press deeper with international films, and strives to manage Canadian fashion models who are breaking into the major markets. He contributes his efforts to uphold the integrity of the modeling industry; focusing on the well-being of the working and coming generation of International Models.
From your experience, what would you say are the top 3 challenges teens or young adults face today when they enter the workforce? Can you articulate this from your industry’s / field’s perspective?
Challenge #1: Learn to speak on the phone
Allow your character to come off in your communication. I am a firm believer that phone calls drive companies forward. Emails and texts are comfortable, however, do be reminded that work can be executed in a fraction of the time versus the back-and-forth and untimely nature of emails. Stop being so casual and comfortable and pick up the phone.
Challenge #2: Lack of courage
Be courageous as you dive into the work force; your world expands depending on the level of your courage. My team at CSI Models are constantly introducing new ideas and research on a weekly basis which elevates the company in positive ways… these choices take bravery sometimes because new ideas require a driving force. We absorb what we see in our own personal lives and apply it so our work is meaningful. Great teams are orientated with people from various backgrounds and experiences (like you); your own story contributes to the cultural backbone of the workspace, so lead from a place of honesty and offer a piece of your courage to your leaders/bosses. At the end of the day, we are all simply looking for a positive connection with one another.
Challenge #3: Prepare to work with older colleagues
Believe me, as a young leader myself, working with older colleagues is undoubtedly a blessing – your knowledge and “process” accelerates, plus you advance in your industry headstrong. I started working as a talent in my industry at 14, before learning the ropes of the entertainment field; respectively the agency business. The women leading the agency at the time had 50+ collective years of experience and I saw this as a golden opportunity to learn the business - your goal as a teen or young adult in the workspace is to be part of the process of creation; I paid attention to how my leaders operated, how they communicated, how they made errors but importantly, how they rectified it. Further, the lessons your leaders learnt the hard way now become free power-tools for you to use – leaders want you to succeed.
As part of the adolescent coaching empowering resilient success (ACERS) series, we are interviewing experts, like yourself, in order to help leaders, teachers, parents, teens, and young adults by sharing our expertise. As an expert in your field, how would you articulate some strategies your employers used in their practice, or organization, to helped you feel empowered, build resilience, and experience success? Essentially, how were you coached?
I wanted to act and model in my teen years, whether it was supported or not, I knew there was a natural calling. Transitioning into the industry was new for me so I made it a priority to ensure my agents and managers recognized me; I would always swing by the agency to help, show my leaders I am training 3-4 times a week, but ultimately, I gave back to the agency by teaching the new generation of talent. I began acting at 14 and learned the model business at 16. In retrospect, what I recognize today at 26, is that my leaders/directors noticed a curiosity within me and then nurtured it to life. It was special to me because they saw it before I recognized it myself; this form of leadership is profound because it is propelling for the individual; one open door will lead to two. Leaders need to recognize unnurtured curiosity and help their team to recognize the talent within themselves. In film for example, the space between the actor and director is not only creative, but also stimulated by trust and a freedom to communicate and move. This altogether creates empowerment because multiple layers of the character can be explored together, and the facilitation of this is the responsibility of the director/leader/boss.
Further, I am lucky to be in an industry where travel is necessary whether it be in film or my model management. The opportunity to work in various countries truly emboldens you. The cultures you absorb overseas empowers you to broaden your perspective, and resiliency builds when you understand difficult situations you must handle outside from home. Under solid leadership tied in with the privilege to travel, I was exposed to culture, different lifestyles, non-western business techniques, and spirit. The success comes when I apply what I have absorbed into the very fibers of what I do on a daily basis.
As a young leader, how would you define leadership, as you have come to understand this term in your field, and why do you think it is important for teens and young adults to develop these characteristics and attributes before they enter the workforce?
Give credit – crediting others is such an empowering motive for all parties. Celebrate the subtle and large successes whether it be a creative project or a personal accomplishment; crediting is an excellent way to develop collectively with your colleagues. Remember, you grow quicker and stronger as a team/community versus singularly.
Nurture – we all deserve to showcase our talents but leaders must recognize the talent, nurture it, and allow the person to see it for themselves.
In my agency for example, we nurture models by:
scouting the model and meeting with their family
develop the model with education and local work
pinpoint the model’s authenticity which then becomes their brand
test their skills internationally to grow a wholesome career
Work from strengths – when delegating, I ensure that no lines are crossed in any department; it is distracting and disorientation is inconvenient to clean up. Given this, I pinpoint my team’s strengths relevant to a particular duty; excellency and passion comes alive here.
Service your colleagues – leaders must be reminded they are nothing without their team. I make it a priority to listen to my group and apply their critical feedback. Together, we empower one another to see our hard work come to fruition.
A general note to teens and young adults, take these leadership traits in your stride, it will get the attention of those who can elevate your knowledge and skillset.
Considering your experience and field of work, what do you think would make the most impact on teens and young adults before they enter the workforce to help them experience success? What skills and attributes would be the most beneficial when they enter the workforce?
My tip would be to leave any inferiority-complex in the garbage and find your voice; you acquire this voice when you step outside your box. Entering the work force with frailty is such a chore for everyone, so speak facts and embolden yourself to challenge systems which are unclear to you. In addition, have critical conversations with those leading you to understand that the “real world” is non-linear. Finally, express how you feel because somewhere in that communication will be the inspiration we all need to move forward.
What 3 tips could you offer teens and young adults as they prepare to make a successful transition from mainstream education into the “real world”?
Amrit’s Tip #1: Work like an “Independent Contractor”
Independent contractors carry the same liabilities [as individuals] as companies do. They are accountable for their work and must act ethically with competitors. With this said, start having ownership and responsibility of the work you put out once you transition into your stream. A reminder, be well researched and lead with facts and precision when it comes to buckling down.
My agency, CSI Models Vancouver, is a model management company and we receive 1000+ applications worldwide yearly. When evaluating, I want to know what makes YOU the contractor unique. I sign models who use their platform to improve the world - to use it as a contributive force of change. What makes you outstanding? You know you are, so put your wall down and share it to the world; your leaders depend on it too.
Amrit’s Tip #2: Become financially literate;
Unfortunately, so much of your life in the “real world” will be correlated with money. If you are a teenager, you may now feel the impact money can have on your projection. This can be incredibly difficult to manage and often hits you at unfair points in your life. I advise teenagers and young adults to focus on: living within your earning bracket, understanding compound interest, and leading a modest lifestyle.
Read some of my personal favorites on money – these books fundamentally altered my perspective about money:
Amrit’s Tip #3: Represent your team well;
At the agency, I remind my models that our representation runs mutually; We rep you to our clients and you in return represent us when you work with them. We do good, 5 people will know… we do bad, then 20 people will know. Apply my first tip of ‘working like an independent contractor’ and be mindful of your steps as you enter the workforce.
I love playing Hi-5 with our guests! Can you please share with us your first thoughts on the ACERS acronym? What do each of these mean to you or what final statements or piece of advice can you leave us with?
Never lose your curiosity – you already know life has its ups and downs, so ensure to keep your channel of curiosity and light accessible; stay creative and keep your mind sharp.
Recognize the curiosity and/or talent and then nurture it. Everyone deserve chances to show the world what they are made of.
Get in touch with your roots; the country you were born in, the community you are in, your life growing up etc. When you understand your personal foundations, you can use it to thrive and elevate those around you which will in-return empower you.
Make mistakes, fail an exam, get fired – it builds character and resiliency. When you come out of a tough situation, take the time to reflect on how you handled it and pinpoint what worked – building resiliency very much is an artform in itself.
When you find happiness in what you do.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
You can follow me at:
Thank you, Amrit, for these fantastic insights.
We wish you only continued success in your great work!