Focus on your Goals — Tip #1

You might not have noticed but we are just about finished with 2021.   Yep…..that was fast.  Apparently, time flies especially quickly when it is dark and cold outside and we were stuck in our homes for most of the year.

Did you set some goals for this year?  It might have been in the fog of New Year’s morning or the marathon of DIY shows over Christmas.  Or maybe you set some new goals over the Labour Day weekend. That’s a popular time too. Do you remember any of those goals?

Once you get into the flurry of everyday life, it can be hard to even remember the special things you wanted to do, let alone focus on getting them done.

I learned a neat trick from one of the great people I volunteer with (yet another reason to put up your hand and volunteer!).  I commented on her aggressive development plans for the year and she said that she learned long ago to use the B-HAG method.

Excuse me?

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Was she calling me a hag?  And if so, how did she know?  We had not known each other that long…..

No, not at all.  B-HAG stands for big, hairy, audacious goal.  She said the most important thing is to make sure you think of it every day and work to make advancements, no matter how small, every day.

She even has a B-HAG pet. (image on right)  It’s a little, furry thing that sits on her desk.  When her eyes fall on it, she is reminded about those goals.  Also, when people see it in her work area and ask her about it, she gets another opportunity to describe the things she is working on. It spurs her on even more.

She said having a physical reminder of her goals worked really well last year and so to up the ante and keep it effective, she is going to move it around her office.  A bit like Elf on a Shelf.  It will have eyes on her all the time.

In the end, it does not matter how you do it.  You just need to make sure that you have something or someone that continues to remind you why you need to do just one more thing before lunch, bed or wine.

Good luck!

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The Gift of Connections

It is difficult for kids to get their start in the job market.

A federal government panel has released its interim report and it is focused on employers’ reliance on the digital application process.  We know as adults how frustrating it can be to spend 30 minutes filling in an online application that feels less and less relevant as we click through each window.

We, grown-ups, get around this by networking.  We talk to friends and former colleagues and the parents we sit next to at hockey practice.

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Kids, even really social kids, often don’t have the right kind of connections to get them started.  This is especially true if they want to do work that is different from what their parents have done.

We thought that internships would solve this problem.  Kids would get an introduction into the work environment and then either get hired or get recognized by others in the field.  This is only true in some cases.  Free labour, energy and enthusiasm does not always turn into paid work.  Wehen you are 24 and trying to make your way in the world, this can be pretty disheartening.

Kids need our social connections to workplaces and industries.  It’s a tough road for them and we need to help.  I am not talking about just our own kids.  I am talking about the kid next door, the nieces and nephews, the kid who walks your dog when you are away.

You will likely see a lot of young people over the next month as we resume family get-togethers and friendly visits.  Stop for a moment to chat with them.  Ask about their studies and their plans.  It will seem like they are rolling their eyes.  Ignore this.  It’s just habit.  Think for a moment about whether you know someone or something that might be helpful and offer it up.

At the very least, ask if they are on LinkedIn and offer to connect.

Getting young people into good work situations should be on all of our minds.  Let’s do as much as we can.

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Move the Carrot a little Closer – Make more Money

I have been working on our family budget this week.  Ugh.  It is way more daunting than a resume.

Yesterday, I got so fed up with the process that I ditched the task completely and took another approach. I’ll just make more money.  Then I would not need a budget at all.  I would totally free up the weekend.

Now, any economist (or fan of Till Debt Do Us Part) will tell you that how much money you make has nothing to do with the act of budgeting.  But as a recruiter, I know that thinking about how to make more money is definitely a positive action.

So how do you make more money?

Photo by THIS IS ZUN on Pexels.com

Just working harder in your current role is not enough unless you are working on commission and slacking off every day.  If that’s the case, then get off the couch and go to work.

For most of us, it’s a little more complicated.

Does your current role have room to make more?  Is there a bonus based on some personal achievements?  Could you focus specifically on those for a while to get some payoff?

If there is no opportunity for a greater financial reward, is there a career move within the organization that pays more?  Could you leverage what you know and do in your current situation for some gains? If so, start networking internally to see how best to position yourself for consideration.

Sometimes, you have to leave an organization to increase your value.  It’s sad but sometimes it takes a new group of people to look at your skills and experience with fresh eyes to really appreciate what you bring to the table.  This is especially true if you have been with a company for a long time.  Managers typically see you as you were when you joined, not necessarily as who you are and what you have accomplished today.

So open your eyes and take a look around to see what you can do to improve your lot. It is a hot market. There are lots of opportunities for growth and reward. When you arrive in your new tax bracket, make sure you stick to that budget so you can really make it mean something.

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How to keep up with a Hot Job Market

There is an article in the Globe and Mail this morning about the “hottest” jobs in the business world.  I don’t like the term “hot” when describing the job market.  It suggests that people are running from one flaming seat to another.  And sometimes they are.  But really what it does is encourage people to change jobs for a dollar…..or a lot of dollars.

It is true that money should always be a factor in job selection but, unless you are grossly underpaid, it can only be one consideration.

I know too many people who have accepted roles with out of proportion compensation packages and then been miserable.  At the other end of the spectrum are people who get more satisfaction from their volunteer work than they ever got from their day job.

It is, though, helpful to keep an eye on job prospects in emerging segments.  Whether you have an eye on one of the roles specifically or you are in a support function, being aware of what’s on the horizon is the best way to manage your career.

  • Chief Technolgy Officer
  • Chief Revenue Officer
  • Drone Operations Manager
  • Jobs in Clean and/or Renewable Energy
  • Information Assurance Analyst

These are the roles that companies are looking for now or will be in the next short while.  It’s an interesting variety.  Who has not thought about being a drone pilot?  Sounds so cool.

If you spend your days on a hamster wheel focussing on only your organization and you haven’t the time or energy to look ahead, you will end up bitter and exhausted.  That really limits your ability to figure out how to make amove let alone how to figure out what that move will be.  It also means that if an opportunity presents itself, you might not recognize it or be able to capitalize on it.

Two suggestions to stay on top of future opporunties:

  1.  Swap some of your Instagram scrolling for LinkedIn scrolling
  2. Read the business section of a newspaper every day

These are not big things to do but they will pay dividends.

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Feeling Cold and Grumpy? Take a Course

It’s November and the warm sunny days of Fall are gone.  No more hopping across the street for Starbucks.  Yesterday, I caught myself scrolling through Uber Eats to see exactly how much it would cost to have a vanilla latte delivered.  From across the street. 

Cold, grey days combined with too much work can be challenging on the attitude.  I find my tone becoming a little too crisp and my ability to procrastinate getting a little out of hand (which is why I had time to scroll on Uber Eats……)

When I start feeling like this, I call a friend or colleague to rant.  That feels good for a while but for a long-term solution, I sign up for a course.   

There are lots of options. Gone are the days when you had to rush to a course on some far-away campus two evenings a week.

There are lots of organizations that offer virtual courses where you login for a specific time with other students. There are also on-demand courses where you can login anytime you want and go at your own pace.

Coursera – courses from 200 leading universities
General Assembly – web development, data, digital marketing
LinkedIn Learning – business, technology and marketing

These are just a few of the places. They all have different price points and different platforms. Some offer free trials or demo events.

Take a look. Not only will taking a course freshen up your mind but it’s also the kind of development that shows at work. People notice when you are learning new stuff and you are excited about it. It shows. Sometimes people even think you are taller.

Let’s face it….at minus 30 degrees, we are not going out jogging. Let’s stay in and learn something.

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Amp Up the Video Interview

By now, we have all gotten used to using video calls to meet with colleagues and friends. Things are a little less formal with those folks and you can get away with poor lighting or a cat traipsing through the background.

But what about a job interview?  There is a lot riding on those calls and you want to make sure you do everything you can to come across as confident and comfortable as you would in person.

Check your setup – do a test run the day before with a friend.  Wear what you are going to wear, brush your teeth and hair and answer a few questions.  Take the feedback they provide seriously.  Adjust your light, sound volume and background if necessary.

Set up a notepad and a glass of water – not a mug with a logo or a giant Slurpee-sized bottle.  That looks super awkward on video.  No one wants to see your wattle when you take a drink.

Put sticky notes on the side of your monitor with the important points and questions you want to ask. That way you won’t have to look down and to the side when you are referring to them.

Open the app and start getting ready ten minutes before your appointment.  Most of the video apps have waiting rooms. You can hang out just like you would in a reception area in the old days.  Breathe, check your notes, open the chat window and try to relax.

When you start the conversation, smile broadly with teeth.  Not a grimace but a smile that goes up to your eyes.  This will help to make the connection even though you are not in the room with your interviewers.

When you are talking, look at the camera.  That’s how we make eye contact in the virtual world. On my laptop, a green light goes on when my camera is on and I try to focus on it while I answer questions.  My Zoom window is set so that I can still see the faces on my call when I am looking at the light.

Use as strong a voice as you can.  You don’t necessarily have to be louder than usual but try to project a little more.  Sit up straight and pull in your abs.  That will make you feel stronger and it will impact how your voice comes across.

In these times, when we are meeting from the waist up, it’s your face and voice that have to carry the day.  Amp it up a little to get the best results.

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Job Search Success – Focus & Discipline

Looking for a new job can be overwhelming and it seems that a lot of people are doing a lot of exploring right now.   I see an article every day about “the great resignation”.  I don’t believe for a minute that everyone is looking for something new. 

Sure, there are people who banked a lot of money over the last 18 months.  No travel, no commuting expenses, no gym membership, no frosted highlights.  If all that cash went into savings, then there is a group of people who have a newly found cushion.  They can afford to use their f*&k you money to do just that – quit without a new job to go to.

Most people are not in that position but they are frustrated enough with their return to work/company/boss/pay situation to want to find something better.

Looking for a job when you have a job is one of the hardest things to do.  It takes focus and discipline.  Those things are not always available in abundance when you are juggling the rest of your life.

Focus – it is easy to go down the rabbit hole when you start reading job postings on LinkedIn.  45 minutes later you have imagined yourself as an aquanaut, a flavor developer for Pringles and dozen other things for which you are not even remotely qualified.

Decide on the three most important things your new job should have.  Write them down.  Use them to set up filters so you see only relevant jobs.  That keeps things a little more efficient.

Discipline – block time in your calendar to work on your job search.  Looking at postings on Sunday night when you are dreading Monday morning is not the best frame of mind. 

Try blocking a couple of lunch time sessions and an evening.  Try for three times a week, just like going to the gym.  Plan your sessions.  You want to apply for posted roles but that should only be 20-30% of your time. You also want to spend time reconnecting with former colleagues and people you know from volunteering.  Also, consider your current colleagues.  Take a few into your confidence that you are starting to think about something new.  You never know who will make the key suggestion or introduction that will get you into the best job of your life.

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Finance or Fiancé? Figure It Out

Gold and Diamond Solitaire Ring

I was poking around in LinkedIn today.  I accepted an invitation to connect (even though it was an un-creative, un-personal invitation) and after I accepted, the lovely LinkedIn algorithm told me about a whole bunch of other people I might know or want to be connected to.

As my eyes drifted down the list, I was shocked and dismayed and I am not being dramatic at all. First, there was someone in a Controller role whose tagline was that she was an expert in “fiancé and analysis”.  Come on.  There may be only one letter missing but what a difference in credibility, especially when a key characteristic of a successful finance person is attention to detail.  The accounting office is down the hall and to the left.  The marriage license office is in a whole different building.

Then there were three people who referred to themselves without using capital letters or only used capitals on some of the words.

  • Mechanical engineering Specialist
  • Customer Service supervisor

Call it grammar or call it low self-esteem but whatever the reason, fix it.  You are a professional person in a professional position.  Tell us what it is with respect and authority.

While I was on a roll, I looked up the profiles of two people I know.  Their profiles had titles, dates and company names but no descriptions of what they do.  I know, for a fact, that these two women have complicated and demanding jobs but it was not at all reflected in their profiles.  That’s like offering someone a ham and cheese sandwich and then just giving them a plate with two pieces of bread and a pickle.  It may look attractive but it will never fill you up.

Maybe people just don’t care what their profile says.  Maybe their profile is there just because someone told them to “get on LinkedIn”.  That’s okay but don’t expect it to turn any heads if there is nothing to see.

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Giving Notice the Right Way

You are beside yourself with glee.  You have just accepted a fantastic new job.  It checks all the boxes: people, scope, location and money.  Yippee!

What to do next?

It is important to plan your next steps with care and respect.  Leaving a job nicely is a pretty big part of managing your career and your reputation.

Think about how much notice you need to provide to your current employer.  Check your employment agreement.  Many stipulate two or three weeks.  You may think you are being magnanimous by offering four weeks but in most cases, it is not necessary.

Then, write a letter of resignation.  Make it formal but friendly.  Thank your manager for providing such a great opportunity to learn and grow.  Lay out the details of your last day and offer to do anything they need for a smooth transition.

Be prepared for anything and everything when you sit down and hand over the letter.  Managers do not like it when someone resigns.  It catches them by surprise and then they look bad to their bosses.  That’s where counter offers come in to play.

When faced with an unplanned gap in the team, suddenly there is more money to give you.  Maybe they really were thinking of promoting you but the fact is, they didn’t and you have chosen to go somewhere else.

Be firm and resolute.  Think about (but don’t share) all the reasons you are going to a new and better place.

Once the initial shock wears off, they will figure out who will take over your tasks and life will go on.  That’s why a couple of weeks is almost always fine. It’s not like you can get involved in long term planning.  You also get left out of a lot of conversations that might be proprietary.  No one wants to feel like their secrets might be walking out the door.

So you go.  Your colleagues and managers will wish you well and hopefully, some of them will buy you a beer and some nachos and wish you the best.

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Can I Bring my Dog?

So you sent in your resume and now you have an interview next Thursday.  Now what?  Don’t just pace and eat chocolate – get constructive.

  1. Get a haircut.  Don’t wait until the day before – those funny tan lines will give it away.
  2. Research, research, research.  Not just on the company website but newspapers, trade websites, LinkedIn – the whole nine yards.  Find out what’s been happening there lately – awards, new projects, new executives.
  3. Lay out your clothes to make sure you have everything you need including shoes and socks that are clean and neat (even on video, this is important).
  4. If you are meeting in person, think about what you will need to bring with you and what you want to put it in.  You can go with a briefcase, folio or satchel.  I would avoid a huge purse or backpack – too distracting.  It looks like you are sleeping over, not just there for a meeting.
  5. Print several copies of your resume on nice paper. Gather any reference letters, articles, awards and make copies of them, too.  When you offer a copy of your resume to the interviewer, you can also offer some of the other material.  It makes you look organized and accomplished. If it’s a video meeting, you can have them ready to share on your screen. You will really look like a star then.
  6. You might want to have a nice pen with you too.  It adds an extra bit of polish when you whip it out to make notes.

I hate to point out the obvious but don’t bring:

  • Your dog
  • Your Timmie’s medium double double (even if it’s still warm)
  • Anything that rings, beeps or buzzes

Remember that an interview is just a conversation about a potential shared future. Take a deep breath and enjoy it.

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