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Today’s Veterans are Tomorrow’s Business Leaders

Do you have any military veterans in your work group?  Are there any in your company?

As we stop and pause on Remembrance Day at 11:00, we need to think about not just  the veterans from the Great Wars but from the more recent wars.

Every year more than 4,000 men and women leave the military and transition to civilian life.  Their average age is 37 and they have a lot to contribute.

Veteran Affairs Canada has a really neat guide  that describes some of the resources that are available to help employers reach these great candidates.

Did you know that a Combat Engineer is responsible for building and maintaining roads, airfields and bridges?  We may think that road work is tough in our hot summers. I bet it is nothing compared to doing it in Afghanistan.poppy

Supply Technicians take care of purchasing, warehousing and inventory control of food, fuel, tank parts, clothing and a host of other items required to keep a large group of people at optimal performance in crappy conditions.

These are big jobs being done far from home with pressures and obstacles that can be daunting.

We would be hard pressed to have employment conditions that are as difficult no matter how fast our company is growing or how much pressure we feel from the investors.

You can check out the Veterans Affairs web page for more details and for information on different programs being offered to employers to help connect them with former military folks.

There is a really cool program called Helmets to Hardhats that is supported by construction companies and unions.  The program works to remove barriers and increase awareness of the skill sets that are available in this remarkable group of people.   You can read more about it here.

We owe to veterans and to our companies to talk more about this.  They have already served us.  Now it is our turn to serve them.


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Say Yes to Helping Out – Here’s Why

I had a lovely retirement party last week.  Yep, retirement party.  Not from my day job.  There are quite a few years left on that journey.  No, I retired from my volunteer gig.

I have been part of the Women in Nuclear board for six years and was on the leading group of my local chapter before that.  The members of our group are men and women in all parts of the nuclear industry across Canada.  It focuses on communicating the benefits of nuclear technology (energy  and therapeutic) to the public.  Our meetings and programs offer professional development and networking.

There have been times where trying to live up to my obligations in my day job, my family/household and the Board seemed impossible.  But you get through.  You work with your volunteer colleagues and get things done together.

And so, as I move to my status as “just a member”, I can step back and recognize that while balancing may have been tough, the rewards are so worth it.

I have a shimmering network of cool, intelligent, giving people.  People that I would never have had the chance to meet, let alone get to know.  I have had the chance to learn from subject matter experts on many of the forward aspects of the business.  When I use this knowledge in work conversations, people really raise their eyebrows as in “wow, you really know what you are talking about”.

Maybe the coolest thing is watching the people who are taking my place.  I have watched them develop as they sat on committees, took on projects and now they are taking the lead.  This makes me feel pretty proud.

I love my real job but I have to say that I have found tremendous value and satisfaction in my volunteer work too.  Together it’s a powerful combination.

The next time someone asks you to sit on a committee or join in on a project outside of work, you might want to say yes.  Don’t let being busy be an excuse.  You might be missing out on so much good stuff.

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Get Loud for Mental Health

It is Mental Health Week and the Canadian Mental Health Association is running a week long awareness campaign. We are being encouraged to #get loud – a trendy way of telling us to stop being embarrassed or callous and get on with learning about the issues.

Mental illness is difficult to understand.  If you have never suffered from depression, it is hard to understand that someone cannot just “snap out of it” or “get over it”.

It is so easy to joke about a colleague’s behaviour instead of taking the time to try to understand what they might be going through.

There are many resources available to help us with this.

These sites offer free resources to employees, friends, colleagues, managers and HR Departments.  There is a lot of good stuff here to help you get familiar with different types of depression, anxiety and other forms of mental illness.

I am not saying you need to become a psychologist for your cube-mate. There are Employee Assistance programs for that. But you can be more empathetic and understanding towards people who are having difficulty. You would hold the door for the guy with the crutches, right?

You know what would be a good start?  If we took negative mental health references out of our everyday conversations. “That guy is crazy!”  “My client just went nuts.”  I think that would go a long way towards helping our friends and colleagues feel like there is more support and that they are not as alone.

So, read up and be nice. We are counting on you.

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On-Boarding Does Not Start on Day One

If you just hired someone, chances are, it will be a week or two before they start.  If you don’t communicate with that person until the day they show up at reception, you are missing a big opportunity.

We often just breath a sigh of relief once we get the signed offer of employment. We move on to the other thousand things on our list.

Think about how that makes your new team member feel.

What if you sent them a company newsletter and some company swag the day after they sent you their documents?

And what if they were included in some emails for the group they are joining?

And how about if an announcement was made to the team about their impending arrival?  A nice note that gave some background and a nice shout-out.  And how about if they were copied on that note?

That means the week before they start, they are already getting nice, warm, welcoming notes from their new work family.

Sure, this takes a few minutes and you are busy.  Don’t underestimate the impact of that warm feeling carrying into their first few days of work.

This may sound cynical but it also has the added benefit of reducing the cold feet that might creep in and will really help to firmly turn off any other opportunities they were looking at.  It is pretty hard to ghost a manager who just send you a great note and a company hoodie.

Once you get the offer back from the candidate, start thinking of them as am employee and treat them as such. Get some reminders in your calendar and make the most of it. It will be so worth it.

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The Write Thank You Notes

Contrary to popular belief, the thank you note is not dead.  In fact, there are more ways than ever to thank someone for their time and effort.

The Old Fashioned

Keep a supply of plain-ish note cards and stamped envelopes near your desk.  When someone goes out of their way for you, stop and write a brief note of thanks, address it and drop it in the mailbox or on their desk if it is for a colleague.

The Hallmark Moment

Sign up for a Hallmark e-card subscription.  Not only is it pretty cheap but it gives you access to scads of different cards for different occasions – including thanking someone. You pick a card, add your note, pop in the email address and hit send.  This is also particularly handy if you forget to get a paper card for someone’s birthday.

The Quick and Thoughtful

There is nothing wrong with a regular email note to thank someone.  I suggest sending it the next day.  If you send it right after, it might seem like you had it composed and ready before the thing actually took place.  When you send it the next day, it seems like you have not only given it some time to percolate but that you have taken time out of your day to take the action.

The Voicemail   

Don’t discount the value of a cheery, upbeat voice mail.  It may not sit on the person’s desk like a paper card but there is always the option to save a voice mail allowing your thank-ee to be reminded about your sparkling personality and phone manner anytime they like.

In the end, it is not the format that’s important.  It’s the message and the thought that went into it.  That’s what will make you stand out.

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Don’t just spit in the wind – make a Plan

I think that Labour Day should be renamed Resume Day or Apply-for-Jobs Day.  There was a big spike in activity on job boards, corporate sites and especially LinkedIn.

This is not unusual long weekend behaviour, especially if the weather is on the crappy side.  While it’s lovely to get a lot of “join my network” invitations, I can’t help but think that people are spitting in the wind.

If you are genuinely interested in finding something new to do, then you need to plan a campaign and then execute it.  You can’t expect to find success by flinging a few resumes into the universe.

If you only have an hour every long weekend for your job search, then you might as well join the smokers outside your building or hang out in a hockey arena.  That kind of random networking will give you about the same results.

The first step is to give your search direction.  What do you want to do?  Specifically.  It can be based around an activity or a technology.

  • I want to lead a team.
  • I want to fix a broken process.
  • I want to build something new.


These are the starting points.  Once you can identify that, the rest will fall into place.

Your resume should emphasize why you are qualified to do what you want to do.  Provide good, hard evidence of what you have done and where you did it.  It should be easy for a hiring manger to understand where you would fit into their organization.

Once you are happy with your resume, show it to at least three people you trust.  It is helpful if one of them is a grammar geek or at least a big reader.  You want to make sure it flows nicely, it logical and does not have any spelling mistakes.  This is key and cannot be undervalued.

Now, you are ready to move into the research portion.  You know what you want to do.  Where can you do it that is better than where you are now?

Check out Linkedin, simply hired and indeed.  Look for the right keywords and geography to see what is posted.  Apply with a short and pithy cover note.

There are some neat alerts/tools on each site that you can use to automate this part.  Once you know what you are looking for, these are handy and efficient.

I am not guaranteeing that this strategy will get you the next great gig, but it will give you a targeted approach to the market.

It will also help you solidify your goals.  Your ears will perk up when you hear the smokers or hockey parents mention an opening, and you will be ready to pounce all over it.



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Pre Interview Checklist

You have gotten through the phone interview and now you have been confirmed for a face to face meeting with HR and the hiring manager.  You are short of breath and sweaty.  A bit of panic is fine, but here’s a list to help you get focused and constructive as  you prepare for your interview.

The day before:

  • Check out the company’s website
  • Look up the people you are going to meet on LinkedIn (don’t invite them just yet)
  • Search Google for the latest news about the company
  • Address the hairiness of your eyebrows and/or neck
  • Iron two shirts ( in case you spill some coffee)
  • Print and review your resume
  • Call a friend and tell them about a difficult situation at work and how you dealt with it
  • Check out the address and decide how you will get there and when you need to leave

The day of:

  • Shower and dress (easy on the cologne)
  • Brush and floss
  • Pack your resume, something to read (Forbes, The Economist), a comb, gum in to your briefcase
  • Make sure to eat something.  Passing out in an interview is not cool

When you arrive:

  • Stop by the washroom to check your teeth and your zipper
  • Turn off your phone
  • Go to reception no more than 10 minutes early
  • Check in with a smile that goes up to your eyes
  • Sit down and pretend to read while you take deep breaths through your nose

Now you re ready to knock it out of the park!



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