Archive

Archive for the ‘Career Development’ Category

Nothing Comes From Nothing

December 16, 2013 1 comment

HardWork_Header

At this time of year we are bombarded with advertisements trying to entice us to buy more, get this, give that . . . My favourite marketing strategy is the ‘buy one get one free’ or ‘buy two get two free’.  “Come listen to this presentation and get your free paring knife.”  We are led to believe that there is such a thing as free.

The reality is that nothing in life is free.  Someone is paying – whether it be the workers who are paid a pittance, the environment, or perhaps you are not paying with money but with your time listening to a marketing ploy. “Nothing comes from nothing and nothing ever could” (yes, I just watched the Sound of Music).  I have found that if I allow myself to accept this as a fact, I am much less easily manipulated.  If something seems too easy, if someone is telling me that something is free, I should be sceptical.

As a society we are constantly looking for the easy out, how we can get something for nothing.  We want to lose weight without exercising or solve financial hardship by winning the lottery.  The reality is, as Thomas Edison stated, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

When it comes to finding your ideal career, it is an upward climb; it is, indeed, hard work.  Just pulling together a decent resume can take days.  To be successful in a career search, you have to simultaneously be uncomfortably introspective and outgoing.  You need to take the time to understand yourself, your needs, skills, values, and passions, and then look for where those align with a company or a career.  You can get advice and tips, but ultimately no one can do the work for you.  You have to be willing to put yourself out there time and again and risk being knocked down.  Then you need to pick yourself up, brush yourself off and do it all over again.

Sound terrible?  Yes, indeed it may be.  There will be moments where you feel like you are a failure, like you have wasted your time, like you have done everything right and yet everything is going wrong.  You will feel that you deserve it this time around – and you might.  But still you don’t get the job.  And then, just when you think you can’t get up again, you can’t stand submitting another application or preparing for another interview, just when you are ready to quit, you try again because you remember those cheesy quotes that “nothing worth having is free.”

And in that moment between overwhelming exhaustion and opportunity is when things start to look up.  That is when you realize how hard it is to beat someone who never gives up.  (Babe Ruth)

So, in this New Year that is filled with cheap promises of easy comforts – do not be misled for nothing comes from nothing and nothing ever could.

Advertisements

Tips for Creating an Effective LinkedIn Profile

November 18, 2013 Leave a comment

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a great tool for researching prospective careers, building your network, and reaching out and connecting with people.  This should be an entirely professional social media tool, so keep your personal life out of it.  It really should function as an on-line resume and professional networking tool.  It takes some time and effort to create a great LinkedIn account, but if you do it right, it will certainly help you in connecting with the right people and getting a job.

Here are some tips on how to set up an effective LinkedIn profile:

  • Create an effective and informative professional headline.  This helps people to understand, in just a few words, who you are and what your skills are
  • Take time to write a clear, concise, and compelling summary statement.  Tailor it to what your target audience will be interested in knowing about you.  Be sure to include key words, industry-specific lingo and job-specific skills so that it is easily searchable
  • Carefully proof read your entire profile. Then, have at least one or two other people look over your profile; ask them to give you feedback on whether it is clear and accurate
  • Get a professional headshot done.  You want to be dressed in business attire and looking sharp.  This is about creating a positive and professional image – think about what message your photo sends about you and whether it fits with your career goals
  • Add industry relevant skills to your profile.  Once you have added these skills, start endorsing others for the skills that they possess.  This will, in turn, result in others endorsing you
  • Similar to endorsements, the process of getting recommendations is founded in reciprocity.  If you want others to write a recommendation for you, first write a recommendation for them.  Take time to write serious and thoughtful recommendations, as they are also a reflection of you.  When you write a recommendation for someone else, they are then prompted to return the favour and write one for you. Endorsements and recommendations add to your credibility
  • Customize your profile URL – go to your profile, click on Edit, click on Manage Public Profile Settings, on the right hand side of that page, click on Customize your public profile URL. This allows you to create a shorter URL that looks better and more professional on contact cards and resumes
  • Join groups that relate to your career interests and industries. Being involved in groups can help you to connect with people that you might not otherwise interact with

Email Best Practices

August 26, 2013 Leave a comment
email etiquette

email etiquette

When dealing with email communication I am frequently stunned by the lack of professionalism that I encounter.  Many times I receive emails that have no salutation or sign-off and no capitalization, grammar or sentence structure.  If these habits continue when the sender enters the workforce he/she will find that it will have a significantly negative impact on his/her career prospects.

You will find that if you take the time to write accurate, concise, and respectful emails that you will be perceived in a better light and will likely receive more positive and helpful responses.

Secondly, if you develop a strategy for effectively managing the emails that you receive, you will waste much less time will be responsive, organized and less stressed.

Below are some tips for helping you ensure that you are creating a professional image and effectively managing your email:

  • When writing emails it is always best to err on the side of formality.  Professional emails should include accurate punctuation, capitalization, sentence structure, grammar and spelling. If you are not sure how to address someone, start with the most formal option eg. Dear Ms. Smith, then wait for the reply to determine how to address further correspondence.
  • For professional communication emoticons, abbreviations and slang acronyms like LOL are too informal.
  • Avoid the use of wallpaper or colourful fonts that are distracting and slow down the receiver’s ability to process the message.
  • When it comes to font type and size stick with the basic serif fonts, such as Times New Roman, or san serif, such as Arial, in the 10- to 11-point range.
  • Reread messages before sending.  This allows you to check the tone and content of the message from the reader’s perspective and enables you to catch mistyped words such as god instead of good that will not be caught by your spell checker. An articulate, concise and accurate email tells others that you are intelligent, professional and detail oriented.
  • Keep your inbox clean. Use electronic folders to archive messages that you may need to refer to in the future.  Keep the inbox for current items that you need to deal with.  This will help you feel organized and less overwhelmed and stressed.
  • Insert the receiver’s address last. This ensures that you do not accidentally send an incomplete email or forget an attachment. This is particularly important when dealing with a sensitive topic.  Better yet, if a topic is sensitive, don’t send an email go and talk directly to the person in order to avoid a misreading of your tone or intent.
  • Open an email once.  Don’t waste your time by reading an email and then leaving it to sit because you don’t feel like answering it only to have to return to the same email later.  Have a one touch policy, open it, answer it and then delete or file it.

For further tips on managing your email check out: Managing Your Email, Thinking Outside the Inbox by Christina Cavanagh.  http://www.christinacavanagh.com/book.htm

Go To Class

July 12, 2013 Leave a comment
remembering Jeff

Gazette article that I wrote the year after Jeff died

We are at that time of year when students are frantically selecting courses for their upcoming year of university.  I love getting to talk with first year students about what courses they want to take, what they hope to do with their degree . . . Best of all, I love the students that come in well prepared and excited for all of the courses.  Those students that say, “I can’t choose, there are so many that sound interesting.”  When I hear that, I know that that student is going to do well.

On the other hand, there are the few students that have not yet found their passion and some that just don’t seem to want to be here at all.  When I ask “what courses are you most excited about taking?” and the response is “whatever course is the easiest,” I think, “Wow, you are in for a lot of lessons in the subject of life.”

I learned those lessons when I was going into my second year of university.  A friend of mine, Jeff, was a year behind because he had been diagnosed with cancer and had been going through intensive chemotherapy during what should have been his first year.  I spent many days up on the cancer ward visiting Jeff.    During my second year, Jeff was able to register for his first year courses and on the days when he was up to it, he would rally all of his energy and go to class.  Jeff was told that his diagnosis was terminal and that there was nothing more that they could do for him.  Jeff knew that these were the last weeks of his life and his priority was not to go sky-diving and visit exotic lands; all he wanted to do was be a regular 20-year-old and go to his first classes at university. Jeff would have know that he was never going to graduate and yet he was able to see the value and gift that education was and spent his last few weeks learning.

While Jeff was learning about Chemistry, Physics, and Calculus, he was also teaching me an important life-long lesson – Go To Class!  It seems un-profound, but really he taught me the importance of taking full advantage of the basic things in life.  The best things in life are not those rare moments that are exceptional, but those everyday moments, the routine that we create, the regular ways that we occupy our time and build our life.  If we can find inspiration in the everyday, we will be present and engaged in ways that will invariably lead to success and happiness.

Jeff passed away on October 10th of my second year. He only made it to his first month of university.  From that moment on, I saw each class and assignment differently.  When I started to feel overwhelmed, tired and stressed, I would think of Jeff and it revitalized me. I have always gone to class.  It is a simple way that I pay tribute to Jeff’s strength and honour his memory. Although I graduated many years ago, I am committed to life-long learning.  Every year I take another course or attend a conference. I happily engage in the routine of my life and am grateful.

As you chose your courses and as the school year draws closer, think of Jeff.  When you are too tired, too stressed, too bored, too confused, . . . think of Jeff, pick yourself up and Go To Class.

Graduating with Gratitude

June 19, 2013 Leave a comment

convo1Yesterday was our convocation at Huron.  I spent the day watching our lovely students with faces bright and full of pride parade around in their black gowns.  As I stood at the back of the room witnessing the closure of their years of study, I wondered what was running through their minds.  Do they feel full of hope? Do they feel full of potential?  I sure hope they do, and not just in that moment but in the days, weeks, months and years that follow-it.

As I searched for further inspiration for this post, I Googled the top convocation speeches of all time.  As I listened to the seemingly endless words of wisdom and optimism that flood convocation halls at this time of year, I became a little cynical. So many of them focus on the idea that you can do anything, don’t let anything stand in your way, follow your dreams . . . Although I too want students to be determined and persevere, it was in a much humbler act that I found my insight for this post.

When I was gathered on the lawn with our graduates drinking lemonade and eating sandwiches I ran into a particularly lovely and successful student.  She had a handful of thank you cards that she had carefully prepared and thoughtfully written for the occasion.  She handed me a card and the message inside was so full of honest and generous gratitude that I felt a rush of warmth.  On a day that is all about her accomplishments she had spent likely hours thinking about others and the parts that they have played in her success.

To experience persistent and overwhelming gratitude, that is my hope for our graduates.

Numerous studies have begun to focus on the impact of gratitude on our well-being.  “These studies support the theory that gratitude is an affective trait important to subjective well being.”  (Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal) Furthermore, in the Journal of Business Ethics gratitude is conceptualized as “a moral affect that serves to motivate individuals to engage in pro-social behaviour and acts as a moral barometer” (Emmons, 2003).  Furthermore, “grateful persons not only demonstrate more positive mental states (e.g. enthusiastic, determined, and attentive), but also are more generous, caring, and helpful to others.” (McCullough et al., 2002)

In North America, we focus so much on individualism.  We believe that individual liberties and success is the key to prosperity and happiness;  hence, all of the inspirational statements at graduation ceremonies that focus on each graduate pursuing his/her individual goals, striving for personal success, not giving up on him/herself.    But does such a thing exist?  Can any of us achieve anything all on our own?  Even if we can, why would we want to?  There is something much more rewarding in letting others in to share in our achievements.  Acknowledging the contributions of those that love and care for us in our accomplishments.  What good is it scoring a goal if you have no one to high-five afterwards?  Where is the value in winning an award if there is no one there tearing up with pride and taking your photo?  What better way to celebrate than by thanking those that helped you along your path.  That act of love and gratitude will make you happier; it will ensure that as you move through life you are more determined and attentive.

You lose nothing by acknowledging the contributions of others.  In fact, the greatest leaders that I have known are the ones that happily admit that they could not have done it alone.  So when you walk across that stage or look at your diploma hanging on the wall, think about those that believed in you, taught you, picked you up and pulled you through and be grateful.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”  What resonates with me in this statement is that it allows us to take our failures into account as well.  We can even be grateful for the lessons that we learned when things did not go well.

So go out into the world, persevere, work hard, and follow your dreams.  But, do it with gratitude and you will find that you are happier and more resilient.

Congratulations Graduates!

What Now? A Recent Graduate’s Success With Finding a Job

April 19, 2013 Leave a comment

end of ropeThis post is a follow-up post from a previous guest blogger Sonja Fernandes.

Growing up I was told, “Get an education and the job will come to you”. As it turns out, this is NOT the case. With that being said, I am sure I am not alone when it comes down to deciding what the best route after graduation is. I considered law school, teachers college, graduate school, continuing studies, post graduate programs, entrepreneurship and several job opportunities. After changing my mind almost as often as I changed my underpants, I decided to attain work experience in order to learn more about myself and to grow as a professional.

I have been employed in 3 different contract positions since graduating nearly one year ago and I wanted to share with you the obstacles that I faced and the tips that I learned along the way.

Where to look. I am always confused about where to look for jobs.  There are so many websites and databases out there that it’s difficult to know which one to use. What I have realized is that depending on what field you are interested in will determine where you should be searching. To get the search started, here are some websites that I found to be helpful:

  1. Being young. In my job search I’ve noticed that because I am young, I am able to take risks that I likely would not be able to if I had a family, for example. This is the positive side to being young but there is also a negative side. I have experienced various forms of ageism in my job search. The most notable is the fact that most jobs require 1-3 years experience. How am I supposed to get this while attending school full-time? My advice: get out there now! Even if it means volunteering at a place of work that you would like to be hired by one day. If it wasn’t for the work-study positions that I took in undergrad, then I would not be employed in the position I am today. Getting professional work experience in your field of interest while you’re a student is the key to landing a job after graduation.
  2. Uncertainty. There is a lot of uncertainty to deal with in the job search today. Our economy and society is going through constant changes yet educational standards have remained the same. There are so many options, projects, positions, jobs, careers that it can be overwhelming to think about. My best advice would be to embrace the change and educate yourself; find out what industries are growing, find out what jobs will be in demand when you graduate, find out what marketable/transferable skills are in demand ect. Go with your gut, follow your passions, and leave it to serendipity. Planning your whole life at the age of 20 ‘ish’ is so last century anyways.
  3. Google. In other words, the double edged sword. I have found Google to be an extremely helpful tool in my job search. I will use it to look up anything from employer profiles on LinkedIn to research about salary grades. With that being said, there is also a negative side to Google. Have you ever tried Googling your name? I recommend that you do and I also recommend that you look at the image section because I guarantee that there is a picture of you there that you were not expecting. Just as you will Google your potential employers, you should expect them to Google you as well and so make sure that the image you are portraying online is a positive one!
  4. Never stop looking. It is so important to search for jobs continuously. My favorite professor, Dr. Koehn, gave me this awesome advice: Even if you have a job, you should always be looking for other opportunities and that is how to achieve career related success. The students that he sees attain their dream jobs are the ones who never stopped searching. I try to check the job databases listed in #1 daily even though I am currently employed! I often see positions that I think would be a good fit for my friends or family members and they appreciate the time I take to help them and I like to think that this is good karma for me.
  5. Be an entrepreneur. Our society is in need of positive leadership, creativity and innovation. We no longer accept the conditioned belief that if we go to school, then we will be offered a job upon graduation. We are not in the industrial age; we are in the information age. It is time to stop relying on companies, governments, and educational institutions to provide employment solutions and instead take responsibility of our future. Being an entrepreneur helps you identify your skills, ideas, passions, core beliefs, fears and allows you to identify the direction you want to take your life and set powerful goals. In my third year, I started a volunteer training program called Volunteer YA (young adults) and I attribute my personal success to this entrepreneurial opportunity that I created for myself. There are also free resources on-campus, such as BizInc at Western and Fanshawe that will help you along the way!
  6. Seek help. The most useful resources students have are their on-campus career centres where services such as professional development workshops, resume writing and interview coaching are offered free of charge. And most schools allow their alumni to use their career services. Having that one-on-one attention should not be taken for granted because career counseling can cost anywhere from $75 to $450 in the ‘real world’

I understand that every persons experience in finding a job is unique and subjective. So, I am going to be honest, it was difficult for me to write this post. With that being said, my hope is that just one person who reads this post is inspired by my experience and will find opportunities in their field of interest. The fact of the matter is that it is difficult to find meaningful work in today’s world regardless of the sector, your age, level of education, social status or experience.

Take the advice of Thomas Jefferson, “When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.”

Sonja FernandesSonja Fernandes is 23 years old and graduated with an Honors Specialization in Philosophy from Huron University College on June 4, 2012. Feel free to contact Sonja at sferna47@uwo.ca or on LinkedIn if you have any questions or comments about this post

Overeducated and Underemployed?

February 20, 2013 Leave a comment

you-can-never-be-overdressed3There has been a lot of coverage recently of the high youth unemployment rates in Canada.  The national unemployment rate is 7.2% while the youth unemployment rate is 14%.  If these statistics have not scared you enough, what about the $23.1 billion in lost wages that Canadian youth will experience over the next 18 years? (According to a TD Economics report)  To make it even worse Martin Schwerdtfeger, senior economist with TD writes that “being unemployed at a young age can have a long-lasting impact on an individual`s career prospects.”

I read, hear, and watch these media reports and understand exactly why students are flooding into my office looking horrified about their future prospects.  I see why the anxiety, stress, and depression levels are high in this population.  Not only do we live with the constant threat of impending doom from terrorists and swine flu’s but, to top it all off, the current generation are going to spend thousands of dollars on an education and will end up unemployed or underemployed and broke.

If we send young people out into the world of work with expectations of disaster that is exactly what they will get.  I prefer a less defeatist approach.  After all, people are more likely to hire recent grads is they are full of energy and optimism.

So let’s turn it around.  Great News, 86% of youth are going to be employed soon after they graduate!  That seems like a not so bad number and the chances of ending up in that category are likely pretty high if you are taking the time to read this post.  It means that you are dedicated to doing something about your future, taking action, and getting results.  In fact, a report from the Certified General Accountants of Canada entitled “Youth Unemployment in Canada: Challenging Conventional Thinking“, points out that:

  • The highest level of youth unemployment (15.2 per cent) during the recent recession was noticeably below that experienced during previous recessions when youth unemployment swelled to 19.2 per cent in 1983 and 17.2 per cent in 1992.
  • Nearly half (46.8 per cent) of unemployed youth were able to find a job within 1 to 4 weeks in 2011 while the average duration of unemployment experienced by youth did not exceed 11 weeks in that year. In fact, the average duration of youth unemployment in 2011 was well below the shortest average duration ever experienced by young and mature workers over the past 30 years: 12.5 weeks in 2006 and 16.2 weeks in 2008 respectively.

The truth of the matter is that there are people without jobs and almost as many jobs without people.  What we need to do is educate youth on emerging markets and required and desired employability skills.  So rather than sit back and wallow in self-pity, blaming the baby boom generation for not retiring already, do your research.  Take a look at where the jobs are.  What are the growth industries? What personal and technical skills do you need to succeed? And then start planning.  Be strategic, focused and dedicated.  Take a couple technical courses, volunteer with an organization to gain practical skills, attend networking events and, most of all, stay positive.  You are more likely to be motivated by working towards a positive outcome than by trying to avoid a negative one.

And when you have just been turned down for a job and are starting to feel defeated, take the advice of Napoleon Hill that “most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.”

%d bloggers like this: