Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Top 10 list for phone interviews

A friend asked me the other day for tips on handling a phone interview.

Here is what came to me in my 3 minute email blast:

1. Have all your "stories" laid out so you can tell specific success stories.

2. Sheets of paper and a pen (no kidding, some people don't) so you can write down the questions

3. Be patient when talking - it can be difficult not to talk on top of each other

4. Like all interviews, manage the time. You could even use a stopwatch since it is not in person, to ensure your answers are 3-4 minutes long.

5. Using names can show you are a STAR. Write down their names to start, then when they ask a question, answer them. "Well, Brian, when I produced a series of reports on...." and you can also thank them by name at the end too.

6. Have the laptop/ipad/desktop ready for quick googling.

7. Avoid distractions. Watch out for dogs barking, doorbells, other phones...I have had a

few that I could hear the TV

8. Don't take the cordless into the bathroom with you - seriously, again it happens more than you think.

9. Use some transition type phrases once and a while - Would you like to hear more, am I speaking to fast?, I could go into more detail if you would like... since you can't see them, it can be difficult to know what is going on over there.

10. Practice. Look at the job ad and create a few questions you might ask someone.



Let's face it - a phone interview is like an open book exam. Prepare and you should be able to handle the normal questions with ease and professionalism

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

I'm back

Wow that was a well needed rest!

My passion was not enough to sustain my schedule and my mental health.  At the end of June I was feeling run down and exhausted.  I think I needed someone to put the silver blanket around me.

But all I needed was a little inspiration and I am ready to get back in the race (to extend the metaphor to it's bitter end!)

Back in May, I met a guy, had a few beers and gave him some advice.  I told him that if you are looking to stretch your career or take it in a different direction, your worst enemy is going to be job boards and HR recruiters.  They will screen you out because your expertise is not clearly evident - you haven't done the work before so how could we expect you to do it in the future.

We discussed how he might frame his resume and how he needed to talk with the hiring managers and senior leaders.  He needed to talk about transferable skills, his attitude, his successful behaviours and his potential.

Well, it seems he got through... & I got an email today.

"I wanted to thank you for the resume advise and information on HR managers that you were able to pass on. The information has proven invaluable as I have seen first hand the role of the HR managers as the 'gate keepers' in their effort to keep people out!

On the positive side of things I did find a company with an opportunity that I was very interested in, and although not 100% qualified (I lack the direct experience as we discussed) they decided to look
past it and offered me a position as a project manager. I start August 20th. I am very excited, and have no doubt that your assistance with looking at my resume and the advise you gave me was the tipping point for the company being able to see the qualifications I did have instead of the ones I didn't." 

If anyone else needs a little push or a fundamental paradigm shift, please feel free to contact me or access what I already have out there.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Me in my new job

Wow, how some things change.  Only months ago, I was in an office tower wearing a suit and tie.  Now....

Friday, June 15, 2012

2 recent finds for Career Advice!

Think this blog is good?

Well, check out :

a.  the Career Management Best Practices group CLICK HERE on Linked-in.

b.  the iTunes podcast Career Tools CLICK HERE.  246 episodes on all sorts of topics.  I listened to one last night and felt like an amateur.

Lots of great advice from all sorts of great people.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Decision Making Tools - support for BlogTalk radio Episode #3

Episode #3 of my blogradio cast is available on iTunes (search for Doors Close Doors Open) and at

Thank-you to all of you who continue to visit my blog (over 4400 hits since April 4) and now are tuning into my podcasts (over 300 in two weeks).  As always, I will ramble in some sort of direction and give you some tools that I have found in my/our journey and my professional that can help.

I find a real lack of decision making tools in Career Development literature and web-sites.  I think it is "assumed" we all CAN and DO make good decisions regularly.  We all know the saying about assumptions.....  

Here is how I made my decision and I hope it can show you some of the steps.

When I was faced with a decision on my career transition, forced a bit by the news my office was closing, I did 7 things.

The 1st thing I did was to reach out to those in my circle of trust.  I needed them to help me understand the problem I was facing and I felt I needed to be heard and understood.  There are no resources here just the strength and humility to admit weakness and vulnerability.

So the 2nd thing I did when I was overwhelmed by choices was to start writing stuff down. I took all the documents and wrote out scenarios.  I made list of pros and cons.  I pushed numbers into on-line pension calculators.  

The 3rd thing I did was resort to quiet time, mediation, nature in order to unclutter all the work I just did.  I love Sharon Salzberg.  She has a really great approach to meditation.   You can find her book "Real Happiness" on-line and on the web at CLICK HERE (

The 4th thing I did was to push aside my past decision making practices and explore new ones.  I found the wikipedia page on decision making and it opened my eyes to ways to decide CLICK HERE    I especially liked the segment about bounded rationality - the idea that human decision-making is limited by available information, available time, and the information-processing ability of the mind. It identified two styles: maximizers and satisfiers.  From the wiki:

maximizers try to make an optimal decision, whereas satisfiers simply try to find a solution that is "good enough". Maximizers tend to take longer making decisions due to the need to maximize performance across all variables and make tradeoffs carefully; they also tend to more often regret their decisions (perhaps because they are more able than satisfiers to recognize that a decision turned out to be sub-optimal)

Aren't all our decisions limited by information and time?  I am a satisfier and it make my life easier but I also tend to pay a bit more or get a bit less.  Who are you?

The 5th thing I did was Google for worksheets, taking the first stage of writing things down but now forcing me to think in different ways.  I found . There are heaps of worksheets for decision making, complete with tips and tricks at CLICK HERE

I printed some off and started to calculate and figure out what choices meant in real terms.  Really help flesh-out some of my options.  I really like the Career Choice Worksheet 

The 6th thing I did was similar to the second thing - to quiet my mind again.  I refocused on work, play, sport, and music for a few days.  I let all the work, worry settle in and tried to tap into my intuition.  Intuition can be powerful but must be, I believe, validated with facts.  

And lastly, the7th thing I did was I came back to my loved ones.  I told them what my conclusion was, what risks there were and what changes they might be in store for.  Only with their agreement and understanding did I make my choice.

Did you notice the circles I made?  I started with loved ones and ended there two.  I had two different "work" stages and "play" stages.  Hey, that's life!

And a friend Kyle introduced me to this wonderful depiction of life in all its organic, non-liner splendour...

Looping back in your decision making,alternating between your brain and your heart, by trusting others, and by seeking new ways of doing this, your journey may lead you in every direction but in the end will lead to success.

Making Career Decisions

Join me tonight at 9pm (MST) for episode #3 of my blogtalk radio show.

Tonight I will focus on Making Career Decisions.  After all the self examination and brainstorming, now comes the task of refining ideas, evaluating choices, and actually deciding what you will do.

Decision making can be very stressful and is one of the toughest steps, especially for my affected colleagues in the Federal Public Service.  Combining rational and intuitive techniques as well as involving your circle of trust in the process can help optimize the decision.

I look forward to you logging on and chatting on-line during my show or calling in.

Remember, archived shows are available on iTunes as podcasts and on the blogtalk radio site.  See you tonight!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Resume Keywords

I haven't said too much about my new job yet.

I am now in the private sector as the Recruitment Team Lead for a large industrial construction company called JV Driver.  The company has 5-6 major construction projects on the go (by major I mean over 500 people on site), a fabrication facility with about 1200 people making pieces for modular construction and putting them together, and a head office with about 300 people working hard to support everyone.  With 5% unemployment and most jobs requiring a specific skill set, this is quite the challenge for a recruiter!

Here is how I find the right person for the job.  And trust me, most corporate recruiters & staffing agencies use this technique too)

So let's say a construction manager calls me and asks to hire someone, say a piping coordinator.  My first question is what will that piping coordinator do. He will likely say the coordinator will issue field installation work packages (FIWP) and  work with the turnover coordinator.

I then go into the resume database and my first thing is to keyword search for FIWP.  Why?  Well, that is a good way to narrow down the 50,000 resumes in our system to the ones that can do the job.

So the lesson for all of you is that it is CRITICAL for you to be specific in your resume.  By specific I mean:

- use specific jargon, like "work packages".  For an administrative assistant, it might be "switchboard" for a book-keeper, it might be "balance sheet", for an drafter it might be "as-built".

- use the specific acronyms.  You noticed I searched for FIWP first.  That is because that is what people who really use them call them.  Here are some examples SAP (a software), EPCM (engineering companies), ATS (the family of softwares recruiters use)

- use client/partner company names.  Sometimes, the easiest fit can be from our competitors or people who have worked on a project.  So if I worked with the Oilers and needed a marketing specialist, I might put in other hockey teams names (Flames) then (marketing) and see what my database matched to.  So, even if you didn't work for the Flames, if you worked with the Flames or use Flames material, you should ensure it is in your resume.

For me that looks like this

- placed over 500 students into summer jobs such as biologist and legal assistants.  Most students came from major universities like the UBC and Carleton and ended up working in 35 federal departments including Environment Canada, Health Canada, and the RCMP.

- use synonyms.  Most of us have employer-specific jargon that does not translate well, say like in the specific database.  Use the most common ones in brackets behind the specific.  So, if you had a custom built HR database, you  might want to say HRMIS (Peoplesoft), since Peoplesoft is universally well know.

There are two main ways to ensure key words are featured in your resume.  One style isto create a keyword section near the beginning of your resume, with about 20 key words (2 rows of 10).  A good idea but I prefer another way.  The second way is to create behavioural-based sentences where there is a description of the specific situation, the specific action that was taken, and the specific result of the actions you took.

Here is an example:

- while on the Horizon project at Suncor, met construction targets by managing over 100 piping spools and issuing 50 FIWP.

Did anyone notice that I didn't advertise first?  

The lesson there is when you apply, even to a specific job, have in mind that your resume is usually going into a database for future use.  So don't just try to win that job, put your best foot forward for all jobs in that company.  More on that in a later blog

Have a good weekend

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Check out the bulletin boards!

I love to observe - to read, to listen, to look around.  Whether it be at a grocery store, the public library, or at Starbucks, I love to check out the bulletin board. Full of thumb tacks and tear-off strips of paper, bulletin boards are full of opportunities - to learn, to buy, to network, and maybe even to get a job!

You see, back in 1995, I came across an ad on my university's bulletin board.  Japan Arts was seeking students to be extras and was holding auditions.  Though it took some courage just weeks into my stay in Tokyo, I decided to go by myself to a hotel at the designated time.  I took a number and taped it to my chest, then stood in a line from shortest to tallest.

The stern looking Japanese staff came over and pointed at me and the three guys around me.  Seems we were the perfect height for the costumes and since we were roughly the same height, we wouldn't look strange standing beside each other on stage.

I got a call for my first show the next week.  The pay was great - transit paid for, $70 US for each practice and $110 US for each performance.  And that wasn't the best part...

It was for the New York Metropolitan Opera's tour of Japan.  I got to be in Tosca, directed by James Levine, set design by Franco Zeffrrelli, and starring Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo.  Opening night was attended by the Japanese Royal Family and I got to stand 5 feet from Pavarotti as he sang his solo.

They picked us 4 guys because, literally, we carried the fat lady off the stage (when she died in Lucia di Lammermoor).  How cliche.

Here is a picture of me (to the right) backstage at the Ueno Bunkakaikan with my friend Scott (to the left), now working for a multi-billion dollar private hedge fund in New York.

So, stop once and a while and read the bulletin board around you.  You might find a babysitter, a gently used bike at the right price, a new local yoga studio, or even, a terrific career opportunity.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Episode #2 - Exploring your options

Join me this Thursday, June 07, at 9pm MST for the second episode of Doors Close, Doors Open blogtalk radio.  The link is

Episode #2 will be about exploring your options after you have evaluated yourself.  Trying career options on for size to see the opportunities and risks, the benefits and the drawbacks is an important second step in career transition.

Now that the jitters are gone, I will try to be the energetic speaker that I can be.  And please, send in your questions and share your stories before or during the show - I am truly running out of clever things to say!

I am excited to announce that I have created a podcast channel on iTunes.  You can sign up and listen to my archived shows on iTunes by searching for Doors Close in the search engine or by using this link

Friday, June 1, 2012

Kijiji as a job board

Have a bike to sell?  Concert tickets you need?  Kijiji is usually the answer.

But do you know that Kijiji has job postings, too? 

In Edmonton, as of now, there are 21,614 jobs and in Calgary 20,344 jobs!

Now recruiting in the private sector, this came to my attention today when the instructions how to post our logo on Kijiji ads was emailed out.

Check it out these great Kijiji job ads:

Director of the Alberta Liberal Party (click here)

Staff Accountant (click here)

HR Manager (click here)

Legal Assistant (click here)

Project Manager (click here)
System Analyst (click here)
Share Point Developer (click here)

(I should have known since my wife's recent job search was almost exclusively done on Kijiji - her results: 4 applications, 3 interviews, 3 offers, and she took the best one)

Episode 1 - Evaluating yourself (resources)

Thank-you to at least 5 of you who I know were listening last night to the first ever Doors Close, Doors Open BlogTalk Radio broadcast.

I was very nervous and alone in my office so I think I sounded way too serious.  Net time I will bring the Jay that most of you know!

The radio episode has been saved and is now a podcast which you can access at

In Episode #1 - Evaluating yourself - I referred to a number of books and internet sites that I like to use.  Here they are:


Zen and the Art of Making a Living by Laurence Boldt.  Click here for a link to his book at Chapters-Indigo; click here for a link to his web-site.

Do What You Are by Paul Tieger and Barbara Barron. Click here for a link to their book at Chapters-Indigo; click here for a link to their web-site.

What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Bolles.   Click here for a link to his book at Chapters-Indigo; click here for a link to his web-site.

Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin.   Click here for a link to their book at Chapters-Indigo; click here for a link to their web-site.


Know Yourself - ALIS Careerinsite (click here)

Authentic Happiness - University of Pennsylvania (click here) - 19 professionally developed questionnaires

Self-Assessment - MazeMaster - Government of Ontario (click here)

Transferable Skill Set - Quintessential Careers (click here)

Enjoy your weekend.  Find some mental space to explore your values, talents, interests, skills.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

24 hours until 30 minutes of blog radio

Earlier this week I made a crazy commitment to host my own talk-radio show about my personal career journey and general career transition advice.

Since then, I have been worrying about what I am going to talk about.

Episode 1 will mainly surround the circumstances of early April 2012, when I was notified that my office was going to close and very few people (not me) were going to be offered relocation to Ottawa (wouldn't take it) while others were going to be transitioned out (fancy for laid-off, and yeah that's me).

It will also focus on the first stage of career transition - evaluating yourself.  I will offer some of my tips and tricks, as well as introduce you to some handy web-sites and books.

However, feel free to email any questions to me at or call into the show.

We go live at 9pm MST tomorrow at

Talk to you then.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The resume - part 2 - the Volunteer Section

I started talking about resumes (click here) and left the conversation hanging.  I mentioned there was more, so....

Lets go to what is normally near the end - Volunteering.  Being a volunteer is a tough job, where the reward is not money.  Volunteers have deep commitment to serving others & they help our communities thrive.  Whether it is health, education, culture, the arts, the environment, we all benefit from the actions of volunteers.

Normally, people put Volunteer experience on their resume to make the argument that they care about and give back to their community, and it also might show what causes they care about.  But by putting this on your resume, it seems like you are just putting your hand up and saying you will help with anything.

But I think that many of you do (or could) use your expertise, your skills, and your passion to "professionally" help volunteer organizations.

Most volunteer organizations are run just like businesses.  They need executives, leaders, managers, supervisors, finance, public relations, HR, project managers, IT, sales people, administrative assistance, procurement . . .

Reflect on some of your past volunteering.  Was the work relevant to the job you are making your resume for?  Are some of the skills and behaviours applicable to that job? 

If you think so, then use this section of your resume just like you would your paid work-experience.

A sample section in a resume might look like this:

Volunteer Experience

2011 Government of Canada United Way Campaign
Regional Office Coordinator

- led the annual campaign in my office of 15 people &  achieved our donation target of $3,200
- planned specific events for the office, including 50-50 raffle, and participated in Canada Place wide events
- facilitated speakers to come to explain the role of the United Way in our community
- grew giving through payroll deduction by 40%

If you do not have any great volunteer experiences, then go out and get them.  Trust me, these organizations can't have enough volunteers!

Also, volunteering can be an excellent way to change or grow your career-relevant experiences, skills, and competencies.  If you want a career in public relations, manage the publication of a newsletter (or better yet, a blog).  If you want a career in HR, help advertise, assess, and on-board new volunteers.  If you want a career in environmental sciences, adopt a local grove of trees or wetland.  If you want a career in project management, manage a large community project, like a new playground build, and so on and so forth.  Most of these organizations won't interview you for the "job" and will let you learn as you go.

Along the way, you might nurture your commitment to serve others even more, your community will benefit from your brain & your sweat equity, and you will be a good role model for others.  You will also realize that the reward of a great career is not the salary - it is playing a role you love to benefit others.

.....and while volunteering, practice your networking!!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Radio, radio

I am embarking on a new adventure in Career Advice - TALK RADIO.  Yes, that's right, you heard it here first.

This Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 9pm MST (Alberta Time), I will be web-hosting Episode #1 of Doors Close & Doors Open. 

To hear the show, at 9pm Thursday, go to

I would love for you to participate.  Here  is how:

1.  You can call in using the number 347-826-9928 (not toll-free so consider Skype or another reasonable option) and we can have a live chat.

2. Email your questions to and I will answer them on the air.

3.  Tweet comments @jayblavergne and I will read those on the air.

I look forward to talking with you more than talking to you.  Episodes will be archived and available to listen to - details to follow.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

We are all Effected

Workforce Adjustment, WFA, affected, surplus, lay-off, alternation, blah, blah, blah . . . let's face it, everyone working for the Government of Canada is just plain effected these days.

Now, the word-du-jour is affected but I like effected. Typically a noun, effected means something produced by a cause (in this case Budget 2012).  But, as a verb, it means to bring to completion. Wow, that is so true.

Beyond the obvious (quite possibly my career with government being completely over), my career really has now come full circle - a completion. 

I feel like I did in June 28, 1990, leaving high-school and not needing to go to school another day if I didn't want to (luckily I did want to).  I feel like I did in June of 1996, when I flew home from Japan with all my University courses complete with no job and no grad school.  I feel like I did in the early spring of 2000, when I was getting ready to complete my 2-year contract and return to Canada.  All those times, the future was uncertain, the options were limitless, but the risks to my survival (food, shelter) were around every corner.

What lessons did I learn from those times . . .

1990 - Education is a doorway to opportunity.  I met so many people, learned so much, and with the piece of paper I got, I have had a great career.  Education was fun, challenging, and difficult.  But looking back, one of the best decisions I ever made. 

Bringing it forward to now - My education created my career and my income, and for that I am thankful.  Like, really thankful.  But if I want more out of my career and more income, I really need to take this opportunity to retool.

1996 - The economy was bad, and so the career prospects.  I felt like I had no control, no chances at success. Now it was nowhere near the crap of 1982, which decimated my family.  But it was hard to be so eager without anyone to woo me.

Bringing it forward to now - There are windows of prosperity in economies. Around the world, Canada is weathering the global recession fairly well.   In Canada, there have been worse times.  In some provinces, particularly the prairies, there haven't been much better times.  I am changing careers in one of the good times and I should be thankful.

2000 - I was managing English teachers in Japan with an Arts degree and no real career in Canada.  I was worried about what kind of job I would get.  I was worried about what kind of career I would have with an Arts degree.  So I sat down with a Career book and worked through the exercises (defining your values, examining your skills, looking at your personality).  I have stayed remarkably true to what I discovered then.

Bringing it forward to now - My career since 2000 has not been an accident.  I planned to raise a family in Edmonton and I have.  It made the decision to consider relocating to Ottawa a simple NO.  I knew that I wanted a defined career, so I chose HR and I still want to be in HR.  All my education since 2000 has had an HR focus.  I got my CHRP credentials.  I have worked in HR now for 14 years.  And, when I was told of my fate,  I looked and found another HR job. 

What lessons have you learned from your past that you can rely on now? 

Are you investing in education?

Do you realize the relatively positive economy we live in?  Are you thankful?

Have you really worked on YOU and made some decisions for your career?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Casual Fridays

I hate Casual Fridays. 

Here is why - some people take it way too far.  A t-shirt might be ok, but an Iron Maiden concert shirt?  Sneakers might be ok, but flip-flops? Work-out clothes?  Seriously, it is still work & not a vacation.

Dress with some professionalism just in case the vice president decides to descend into your office or an important client arrives at reception.  Even in a casual work atmosphere, there are limits to what is acceptable.

Click here for a good article in the Workopolis Career Resource library about your work image.

Happy Friday

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Reference Checks - part 2

This needs repeating so I am going to......

Did you know that reference checks have a predictive accuracy of 13% but are used in 96% of all hiring decisions? To put that into perspective, checking reference can predict performance at about the same rates as astrology and self-assessment.

References, in my experience, tell you the more about what the referee is like. Truly, I usually learn more about the person I am calling than the person I am calling about. Also, they can be full of "I can't recall" and "you should ask someone else" since many people use referees from many years back or referees they have never had a significant relationship with.

Take charge of your references so that they help you get that job!

1. Ensure you keep track of your great relationships. Do you know where your boss in 2005 is today? Try keeping the relationships going after you part ways by sending Christmas cards, email, including them in social media, or buy a few beers every once and a while.

2. Use quality referees only, people that have very good view of all your work behaviours including attendance, project results, teamwork, and interpersonal skills. Often, a referee from another city can not do this...

3. Prepare your referees with the job ad you applied to, the resume you applied with and some of the interview questions your were asked. This can get the referees prepared to match what you did to what the hiring manager needs

4. Go a step higher and give your referees a list of accomplishments while you worked together, complete with what you did, why you did it, who you did it with, and what the results were. These can be great memory recalls for a referee who has many employees, a short memory, or if it has been a few years. If they want to use some of these examples, the answers will be well developed.

5. Don't burn any bridges unless you are a damn good swimmer! Recent bosses will be the best referees so make sure your performance is great & make sure you exit the company gracefully.

Most people leave checking their references to chance. Be different, take control, and reap the rewards.  And hey, you never know - referees could be a great source of jobs opportunities!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

One Door Closes

On a personal note, today was my last day at my job.  I was there at 6:20am and left at 5:45 pm.  I pushed more paper, sent more emails, and tied up more loose ends than I can beleive. 

Why is getting laid-off so productive?

But, there were some tough moments.  I hugged a few people I don't normally.  Water wells up in my eyes and I wonder why.  I took a long, quiet, late day pause  gazing into my empty office and thinking of all the time spent at the desk, the great conversations on the phone, the notes sent on the computer, talking to people sitting in the chairs, waving at people as they passed me by....

Even now, as I mark the end of a journey, blogging and sipping a well-earned beer I am fighting back some real emotion.

Why is getting laid-off feel so tough?

Have a great long weekend with the people you love and I will report on the great, new adventures that await me on Tuesday!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Being Human (aka doing some things poorly)

There are things in this world that I really don't like:  Rush (the band), coconut in my dessert, and Motivational Posters.  You know the ones - pictures of soaring birds and quotes about success, acheivement, goals.

I respect Rush but am hard-wired to love 3 minute pop songs with 3-4 verses and a chorus, even better if there are hand-claps and a few la,la,la's.

I understand that coconut is great since I love to eat it straight out of the shell.  I just think of it more as a fruit/nut and don't like it with my sweet, sugary after-dinner treat.

But I am fundamentally opposed to Motivational Posters.  In my view, their sole purpose is to drive people to perfection. Perfection is not human.  I am not perfect, nor am I going to be, nor do I ever want to be.

I believe that once people & organizations embrace our collective true humanity - our strengths, our weakness, our intuition, our emotions, our spirituality - then we can acheive success.  It is not pretty for most of us. 

I still feel angry and hurt when I talk about my office closure.  At the same time, I have never felt more free or successful since the news of my office closure.  Why? - well, I am 200 pounds of nerves and hormones and 40 years of good times and bad times. I am not perfect

Another case in point is my spelling.  Have you noticed that I am a terrible proof-reader? I am so excited to publish my blog and driven to capture my stream-of-thought, that I rarely check my work for grammar and spelling.  Does it make me a failure?  Does it make my advice poor? 

It is just me - full of great ideas with some deficencies.  I am okay with it.  Are you okay with your weakness?    Figure yourself out and really work with who you are.  Sure, work on new skills and polish up those weaknesses.  Even better is to align yourself with complimentary people, people who your strengths help them and their strenghts help you.

So, I would like to thank Kristy who has agreed to come on board my blog and will help edit past & future posts. 

Off to Starbucks for coffee - one of my key weaknesses.......

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

No one likes Takers

When I talk about Givers and Takers at career sessions these days, it really seems to connect with people.

No one likes a taker.  Takers seem to always want to talk about themselves.  Takers never offer a helping hand.  But, Takers always need your help.  Negativity is often their mood.  Takers do not volunteer to run projects.  Takers always start with "me".  Takers are looking for their next job & the phone number for a hiring manager.  Networking with a Taker is painful.  We all know Takers and as much as we humour them, we don't like them or trust them.  How many career opportunities do you think a Taker gets? 

However, Givers always get back respect and often reap the rewards of positive relationships.  Givers give without a need to get back.  Givers will spend an extra 5 minutes on a project or task just to make sure it helps someone else.  Givers ask more questions than give answers.  Givers will point you in the right direction and share jobs they see with you.  Givers start with "we" and "you".  We love and trust Givers.  How many career opportunities do you think a Giver gets?

Regardless of you current mood or feeling, try giving more and you will feel better!  And you may even be more successful (but remember, that is not why you give)

Career giving ideas include:

- review a colleague's resume
- proofread a friend's cover letter
- when you see a job that looks great but doesn't fit you, think of who it does fit and email it to them
- share great resources, like books and web-sites
- just be positive - you are simply giving good feelings
- listen to someone's story
- tell someone you work with what their greatest strengths are
- on linked-in, recommend a colleague or client
- send an encouraging letter a co-worker
- phone a friend that is laid off and grab some beers with them
- be a great reference for someone
- be genuine & ask them how they are feeling or what they might need
- hug them if they look like they need it

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Google tips and tricks

Life before google is like life before Star Wars - it just seems not possible.  I google nearly 50 times a day and there seems to be lots of me since Google has over 400 million queries a day.

With 250 billion web-pages (6 years ago in 2006), Google is a great site to find anything including career planning resources, jobs, and resume tips.  Heck, most of this blog is uses Google to reference key pieces of information or to find links to direct you to. 

Most of us use Google the simple way and don't find the good stuff!

Over 10 years ago, when intranet sites were often accessible, I used Google lots to find key talent in organizations.  I would find corporate phone lists, resumes, list of conference attendees, membership list of associations.  Now, those days are gone but the search functionalities remain.  And they can be of great use when trying to find out what kind of salaries are being paid, colelctive agreements, competencies are used at major employers, annual reports of government departments or examples of great cover letters.

Check out these pages in Google for searching tips and tricks

Google options (click here)
Most of us use Search on the Google homepage.  Some of us use Google Maps, some of us Google Images or YouTube.  But this is what you get when you click More at the end of the Google menu.

Google Search Features (click here)
5 Everyday Essential Searches
6 Reference Tools
3 Choosing Keyword Searches
2 Local Searches
5 Health Searches
4 Trip Planners
2 Query Refinements
2 Search by Numbers

Basic Search Help (click here)
includes basic tips for better searches

Advanced Search Features (click here)
how to use operators like Phrase search (""), Search within a specific website (site:)
try this one ~job interview.  The ~will look for synonyms of the word job.
or try this one skill -saw.  The - will look for skill but never with the word saw.

Search results options and tools (click here)
includes tips on filtering results by type of content

Google Tips and Tricks (click here)
lots of fun features

Google Tip of the day (click here)
Sign up to receive a tip of the day

These are all great tools to make your searching more powerful and to find what you want, when you want it.  If in doubt, just google it!

Monday, May 14, 2012

the dreaded resume - an introduction

**I will be speaking about my blog in Edmonton at Canada Place on Wednesday the 16th at 1pm & in Calgary at Harry Hays on Thursday the 17th at 10am and 1pm.   Come join me**

Oh, the dreaded resume.

Even I do not like my own resume because I never seem to get it just perfect. I think "oh, I could add something here" or "this is getting too long" or "what does that sentence even mean".

The trick to a resume is to get it from good to great and stop worrying about perfect. After all, a resume rarely gets you the job - what it should do is get you the interview.

Here are some introductory resume tips for you on a sunny, spring evening:
  • the first page needs to capture the most important concepts. Many firms see hundreds of resumes so if you don't seem to be a match on page 1, the manager stops reading. They think, "Why would page 2 be anything different?"

  • and on the first page, the key concepts need to be in the top half. Most resumes are read on the computer screen so the top half of the document is usually all you can see before you need to scroll down.

  • so keep your name and address simple, not too big.  You don't want it to be the main focus of the first page.

  • start with a bang. I typically have a summary of me right under my name. Here is mine:
A senior staffing specialist with over 10 years experience in the recruitment, assessment, selection, and management of technical and non-technical staff. Involved from conceptual human resource planning to career development of employees. Experienced in Public Sector, Private Sector and International HR practices.

  • edit your resume just slightly for every job. Make sure your summary makes you a good fit for that job, not any job, not your current job, nor the job you last applied on.

  • add some numbers and acronyms since it breaks up long sections of text and helps refocus the reader’s eyes. Plus, it makes you look like you know what you are talking about when you are able to communicate specifics

  • be active.  Use verbs with meaning by avoiding the dreaded phrase “responsible for”.  I am responsible for fixing the refrigerator in my house but since it has never broken down, I have never fixed it yet!  There are lots of lists kicking around the internet – click here for a decent one.

  • keep them all in a folder, with dates.  You can reuse phrases, play with your different versions and see your progress.

You should also make sure your experience is in a behavioural format (sets the situation, explains your actions and the positive results), that your qualifications matches the job advertisement, that is covers the main professional competencies, is not too dated, that is makes your volunteer activity meaningful…… and so much more, but that will be for another day.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

What oil can buy - ALIS

Living in Alberta can be a crazy life - in 1981 and in 1995 you couldn't get a job and in 2002 and 2012 you can't find anyone to hire. Our lives here seem to revolve around oil, or as the Hillbillies theme went "black gold".

The huge upside is that the Alberta Government every year potentially has a very handsome revenue stream and have to respond to the oil sectors business needs. Not to get political here, but sometimes Ministers get lucky and lead their departments in the right direction and even spend the taxes wisely.  Case in point is ALIS (click here)- the Alberta Learning Information Service - a career service for the Alberta labour market to prepare them to work.

ALIS is a great, sorry a fantastic, resource for all job seekers, even non-Albertans. One of the great subpages is The Tips by Topic (click here).   Topics include negotiating salaries in the job search process, handling job offers and trends in salaries.

Dig around the site some more and you can find tonnes of tools such as the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey (click here)

Wow, linking you with ALIS may have been a BLM (a blog limiting move)!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Interviews - a partial list of dont's

Sometimes the best advice is what not to do.

I often refer to a bell-curve when I talk to people about interviewing: a few answers to questions are superior, some a great, most are good - fair, some are poor, and few are horrible. The key is to avoid being poor and horrible! The fair and good answers can be compensated for by great and superior results on resumes, interviews, and reference checks.

So here is a partial list of don'ts:

- avoid the 10-20 minute answer to "Tell me about yourself". This is where you give your elevator talk, a quick 2-3 minute description of your key professional achievements and your key interests that are supported by actions. I have had ice-breakers that take 30 minutes since the candidate will not stop talking. They start somewhere around age 6, tell me about their paper route, and describe a messy divorce.  I then need to rush them through the interview since I have someone booked right after them. And I have already made up my mind….

- avoid the royal WE. The company is hiring you so they want to know your actions and the results of those actions. I often will interrupt someone mid-sentence and ask them, "I am interested in what YOU did. Can you focus on that?" A bit harsh but too many people fall in this trap.  We all work with colleagues and many of us work in teams.  Describe your contribution, your role (facilitator, innovator, scheduler), your actions.

- avoid "amazing" stories. If your behavioural based answered involves Las Vegas, people with 6 fingers, miracles, fast cars then often your positive actions and the results get lost in the story. I can still recall some of these stories, like when one person told a story for over 20 minutes about how she was a bus driver transferring prisoners and the bus broke down and she improvised feeding them since they were hungry, then it started to snow...

- avoid your default stress behaviour. Believe it or not, I can be lousy at interviews. Really lousy.  When I am stressed, such as when I really want something really bad, I talk very loudly, talk a lot, brag, and overstate. My strategy to mitigate my default stress behaviour is I lay-off the coffee for 2 hours before the interview & I write down SHHHH on a piece of paper in front of me at the interview. This helps ground me and makes me mindful. Some people are mumblers, some people are likers (like you know, like I was...), some people whisper like a mouse, some people answer in 2 sentences – I believe we all have a stress behaviour that can derail our interview performance.

- avoid critical instances. A killer question for some can be "Tell me about a time you dealt with a conflict". Many people will answer with a conflict that involves a conflict so strong that it was never resolved and that does not show any positive personal actions or results. Pick examples from your past with a lesser conflict but one where the actions you took solved the conflict.  Avoid fist-fights and conflicts with photocopiers.

- avoid too much of the distant past. Some interviewees loved a job 10 years ago and have lots of examples where they showed initiative, good judgment, solved key problems & then use that work experience in every answer.  When I interview, I am mostly focused on what you did in your most recent job. The best candidates are those whose jobs build on each other or who continually enjoy and challenge their career.

- avoid poor dress. This is an obvious one but there are some times I have been shocked - Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops, t-shirts, torn jeans. I have even been able to tell if someone is in their pajamas during a phone interview!

- avoid stories that can not be supported. In my view, the best examples a candidates gives in an interview are the same ones in their resume and the same ones that reference will also recall. This makes the examples more factual and more reliable. Start with a resume focused on actions and results. After the interview, share that resume, the job ad and your key achievements with your references.

- avoid answering your phone during the interview. True story - during one interview a young man's phone rings. He takes it out of his pocket, answers it, puts his hand over the mouth piece and says to me "Do you mind if I take this?" and proceeds to have a 5 minute phone conversation in front of me.

- avoid answering too quickly. I typically ask complex questions with more than one part. Candidates that rush into an answer rarely address all the factors.

- avoid not taking notes. If the question is complex, some quick notes will guide you through your answer. I never trust a waiter who does not write down my order and I never trust a candidate who doesn't write anything down.

- avoid the casual phone interview. Many people treat phone interviews like phone calls. They take the pre-arranged, up to one hour phone interviews in food courts, elevators, cars, planes, and even in bed. I have heard the toilet flush too many times to be comfortable with.  A seasoned interviewer can tell if you are distracted and unprepared. 

And lastly avoid under preparing. Interviews typically involve an examination of your past, an investigation of your key behaviours, and possible a test of your problem solving. 99% of the time, the factors used to determine a qualified fit for the job are in the advertisement. Read and re-read the advertisement. Be ready with a story from your past related to statements such as "we are looking for a team player with excellent customer service". Be ready to answer a hypothetical question about team work by researching key elements of team work on the firm’s web-site or even on Wikipedia.  

There is no excuse for not being prepared.  An average employee cost well over a million dollars over a 20 year career.  The interviewer will be prepared to do due diligence – are you prepared to be worth that much?

A door opens - a reversal of fortune

My journey has come full circle.  Yesterday I accepted a job in the private sector as a Senior HR Advisor (Recruitment Lead).  And just this morning, I sent out the email to my colleagues here in the Federal Government letting them know of my departure.  It is bittersweet as the door opens to a new, exciting, challenging, growth opportunity.

I plan to continue this blog to provide wisdom and advice from all the experience that I have had.  This blog has been a catalyst - I have given and taken from people support and encouragement.  I have seen people begin to tackle some of the key habits for a successful transition.

Here are some of my key habits, which might work for you too:

1.  Be happy.  I have a quote book on my desk, 365 days of Buddhist quotes.  Today, May 9th's quote is “There is nothing clever about being unhappy".  It is not what you don't have; it is what you do have.  Plus, the modern economy is a place, I believe, where individuals can genuinely express themselves and find money, in traditional salary-based systems or private businesses or contract work.  Happiness is not a superficial feeling but a deep, true realization about life and how lucky we all are.

2.  Create and grow relationships.  Involve your spouse in the career transition, have a challenging conversation with your boss, talk about it over beers with your friends.  Ask people what they know and who they know who might be helpful to your career.  Networking is fundamental to discovering, exploring and getting great jobs.  But remember, good relationships start with personal happiness.

3.  Make decisions based on evidence.  I did my due diligence on the job I took.  They had been a client of mine very briefly 8 years ago, I spoke to two friends about what they think of the manager of the unit, I researched them thoroughly on the web, I talked to an ex-client of theirs, I researched their industry and their competition, I visited their work-site, I asked lots of question in the interview. After my work was done, I wrote down the rational factors (the pluses and minuses) & I talked a lot with the people I trust about my intuitive factors (the gut feel).

4.  Don't grip your hockey stick too tight.  Hockey players and true fans know the harder you try sometimes, the fewer goals you score. When I saw opportunities to help others during this process - sharing job boards, sharing job advertisements, and introducing people within my network - it has been rewarding.  It has supported my happiness, grown relationships, and helped me see my situation from other vantages.

5.  Take a chance.  After all the work, in the end I had to act.  No one can see the future but by finding happiness, having supportive relationships, and making a well-informed, thorough decision, I have helped make my future positive.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Headhunter hiring secrets (but not mine)

Back a decade, I was in the staffing industry.  Some people call it headhunting, others placement firms.  A challenging time when I really grew as a talent specialist.  A great time to have tonnes of hiring experiences, good, bad, and ugly.

I ran across a great web-site doing some research this week, advertising a book called Headhunter Hiring Secrets by Skip Freeman.  I don't own the book nor have ever read it.  But, he has 21 free articles posted on this page 

I agree with his fundamental point - that if you behave traditionally (see a job on a job board, apply through the job board, wait for a reply), your chances of getting a job are low.  He has tips and tricks how to be more effective.  I think he overstates, exaggerates and is too aggressive but the essence of all the articles is based on recruitment industry truisms.

Here is a great graphic from his article Why Job Boards Often Hurt More Than They Help

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Your Money or Your Life

About 13 years ago, when the Oprahfication of my life was in full-force, I was introduced to a book called Your Money or Your Life Link to Chapters on-line
It was a real game changer for me.

The essence of the book is we all trade our life energy for money.  Sometimes we can keep our energy, get paid less and actually be happier and wealthier.   We typically don't realize how much we are getting paid in the end once we deduct the true cost of working.  Young families in Canada realize this very fact once you have to pay after-tax dollars for child-care!

I remember when I took paid paternal leave in 2006 when although my income was reduced, I had way more money since I didn't have all the work expenses.

In the book Your Money or Your Life, pages 67-68, is a helpful worksheet you can use to balance your income with your work-related expenses considering your current job or a potential new job. 

Take your salary or potential salary and deduct:

1.  Commuting costs
- time spent commuting to and from work that you could be getting paid
- wear and tear for commuting miles costs
- gas and oil or public transit costs
- parking costs

2.  Costuming costs
- clothes bought for work
- make-up bought for work
- briefcases et cetera bought for work
- shoes bought for work
- drycleaning for work

3.  Meal costs
- convenience meals since you are often too late/busy to cook
- coffee breaks at work
- lunches at work
- entertaining for work
- food rewards for unpleasant jobs

4.  Daily decompression opportunity costs
- time till the kids can have fun after you get home from work
- recreational substances (my daily beer) at home you need after work
- time till able to be productive again at home after work

5.  Escape entertainment costs
- movies
- bars
- cable
- holidays
- exercise

6.  Job related illnesses costs
- lost time to flu, colds, stress related illnesses related to your job

7.  Other job related costs
- hired help to clean house, mow lawn, shovel snow since you are too busy
- childcare while you are working
- educational programs for your career
- memberships, certifications for your career

How much do you actually make?  Could you make more be doing something else? Is your job "costing you too much"?  It might just be wiser to work a simpler job closer to home for less money.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Job Search A-Z

It's funny how things come together once you emerge from the cloud of activity....

I have been doing lots of opportunity-hunting these days and actually it has lead to a point where I am in salary negotiations with an employer. Kind of like the dating is over, we are just trying to figure out the wedding details!

Looking back on it, the job search has had three distinct phases for me, the discovery, the exploration, and the development. Here is a recap:

Phase 1 - the Discovery of jobs. This was filled with searching job boards, visiting job fairs, reading newspapers, and telling anyone who would hear that I was getting laid off. I talk to a lot of people & read a lot of job ads. I even went to a job fair and an out-of-town conference. The goal here was just to find jobs opportunities where employers were looking for a worker like me. It was all very exciting to hear about the different interesting jobs & very attractive organizations. In this phase, I did a lot of daydreaming about what a day in the job would be like. I had lots of promising conversations. However, I didn't just rush off and send in a resume.....

Phase 2 - the Exploration of a job. This phase consisted of reading and rereading the job advertisements, researching the web-sites, looking at employee profiles on linked-in, and talking to people involved with the job, the manager, and the organization. I talked to hiring managers, employees that worked there, and clients of the organization. I talked to hiring managers to see what they were looking for in a "right fit" for the job. I talked to employees about the specific hiring process and potential threats to my success getting the job. This brought my daydreaming down to reality as I discovered some of the barriers to my potential success and the less attractive features of the job, manager and/or organization started to show through, if there were some. However, I still did not just rush off and send in my resume........

Phase 3 - the Development (aka the Chase) of a job. This phase consisted of customizing my cover letter and resume, applying to the hiring manager and through the job board, following up with the hiring manager, interviews, and follow-up discussions. Again, I talked to a lot of people and specifically asked a lot of questions. I scrutinized the job advertisement for clues to what my application should contain & what the interview might be like. I went for an interview, and dealt with the positive or negative outcomes. This really shed a light on the pros and cons of the job, the manager, and the organization. This phase was a litmus test if I was right for the opportunity and if the opportunity was right for me. I didn't always get an interview and I didn't always succeed at the interview. But I took the search to its end.

So, when you see a great job or hear that a company might be hiring, make sure you go through the three phases. You will end up not applying for some jobs (time saver) and when you do apply, you will have a more dedicated strategy - and hopefully some measure of success.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Back to the Future

I left off on Friday with a technique to envision what might be what a perfect work day would be like. 

Returning to Zen and the Art of Making a Living, the next exercise is remembering when work has been "perfect".  This might provide hints, actually proof, of what kind of work you really enjoy - looking back to see the future...Back to the Future...get it now.

As an added plus, it can help you with some great answers to behaviourally-based interview questions and supply some great info for your resume!

1.  What was the most important contribution you feel you have made in your career?

2.  What has been the most exciting aspect of your work?

3.  What has been the most difficult work challenge in your career, but one that you met face on and worked through the obstacles?

4.  What, in your career, are you the most proud of?

5.  What has been a creative highlight?

6.  What skills have you perfected in your career that you have incorporated into your day-to-day life?

7. What have you enjoyed the least?

8.  What have you been formally rewarded for in your career?

9. What have you been the most committed to in your career, where you were deeply involved, emotionally committed, and determined to succeed?

10. What have you done that someone said that you couldn't and shouldn't but you knew was right?

11.  What have been some times when you were absorbed in your work, when you hardly noticed the time (or the bad pay)?

(L Boldt, Zen and the Art of Making a Living)

I have a follow-up interview tonight for a job that still has a lot of question marks for me.  I will ask these questions of myself this afternoon and into tonight, trying to figure out if it can give me the same satisfaction as some of my past highlights.

Blog again with you tomorrow.

Friday, April 27, 2012

A Day in the Life

Most of us have books that have a profound effect on our lives - Catcher in the Rye, the Bible, the Twilight Saga.  In February of 1998 I bought a book called Zen and the Art of Making a Living by Laurence Boldt.  Over the next two years, I read and worked through it.  It helped my clarify my values, linked my values to a profession, and helped me chart my career course.  There is a lot of new age crap in it, but the essence of the arguments and the very effective worksheets were worth it.

Boldt’s main point is that we need to be fulfilled – to do the work we love.

One worksheet in the book is called A Day in the Life.  It helps you discover what a perfect work day would be like.  Print off this post and answer the questions for yourself.  See if you are living the perfect life already Or see if a new job will bring you closer to your ideal. 

Your Ideal Day in the Life

1.  What time do wake up for work?

2.  What do you wear to work?

3.  Where do you go to work?

4.  Who is the first person you greet, if any?

5.  At what time do you begin your work day?

6.  Are you working for yourself, a small firm, a large firm, or a branch of government?

7.  What are the tools you work with?

8.  Do you have a boss?  What kind of rapport do you have?  Do you have subordinates or employees? What do they do?  How do you interact?

9.  How do you spend the lion share of the day (in meetings? alone? with a team? on the telephone?  Making presentations?)

10.  Do you work primarily with people inside or outside of your organization?

11.  Where do you have lunch?  With whom?

12.  As what time do you complete your work day?

13.  Do you take your work home with you?  If yes, what kind of work?

14.  How much money will you earn at this job?

You can visit the author's web-site at

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Reflect, Engage, Review

I am in a celebratory mood - I have another interview lined-up for later this week & this blog, as of yesterday, has over 1000 hits.  Now that I have hit this milestone , I would like to take the time reflect, engage & review.

REFLECT - Simon Sinek @simonsinek said that we all want people to watch out for our back, stemming from cave people being eaten by sabre tooth tigers.  We long to belong, to have people take care of us. My motivation for this blog is to let you all know that I have your back. You might need advice and some encouragement when facing problems and forced to make decisions (I know I do).  I am happy to share my passion for matching talent with jobs, which I hope can help you not be causality.  Hey, I got your back.

ENGAGE - I have been telling you what I want to so far.  Does anyone have any specific needs?  I would like to start fielding questions and handling specific scenarios.  So send me your ideas and issues to or post them in the comments section.

REVIEW - I have about 15 posts now, on topics such as decision making, career development, networking, job searching, cover letters, resumes, reference checks, and negotiation.  In the coming weeks, I hope to organize them to help you navigate them in a more linear, clear way.  For now though, please take a peek at some past blogs.

Thank-you all and good luck managing your career and finding the right opportunity.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Simple Cover Letters

It is proper job seeker etiquette to preface your application to an advertised job posting with a cover letter. 

Some advertisements contain explicit instructions on what should be contained in the cover letter.  If so, ensure you follow their instructions or you run the risk of your resume being automatically dismissed.

If there are no instructions, here are my recommendations for a cover letter:

1.  Clearly (often bold or as a header) identify the job you are applying on. 

Use the advertised job title, a reference number, and any other detail that links your application to an actual job.  A busy recruiter receives hundreds of applications a day & if she can not link a resume with a job, the resume may sit idle.

2.  In the first short paragraph, indicate how you became aware of the job.  Say where you found the job advertisement or who referred you to the job. 

3.  In the second paragraph, use your "elevator talk".  Concisely, summarize your potential value to the company.  A previous post provides some pointers on creating your quick value proposition.

4.  In the third paragraph, address advertised duties with some detailed past actions and results.  Here, I recommend a bullet list of about 3-5 facts that prove you can do the job.  Be specific, use industry jargon and business names.  This all helps a reader link trust what you are saying more since your sentences tell specific stories.  If a job advertisement indicates that you will manage the corporate blog, in my cover letter a bullet of mine would be: Utilizing, run a blog for career transition which has over 800 hits from 5 countries in its first two weeks.

5.  In the concluding paragraph, actively ask for a meeting.  Possibilities include asking for a phone conversation (please call me at 780.... as I would love to talk to you about this opportunity), an in person meeting (I am free next week and work very close to your office.  If you have some free time, send me a quick email and I can meet you). Provide any contact information that may not be in your header and/or clarify the best way to contact you.

After all, a great cover letter will not get you the job.  A good to great cover letter will just get your application read, which may get you and interview, which may lead to them checking your references and credentials, which then may get you the job!  Good luck

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Occupational profiles

One of the best resources I use for my career and profession is occupational profiles.

Occupational profiles, in Alberta can be found at

The profiles list the duties, the personal characteristics, the educational requirements, employment and enhancement, and salary information. As an HR professional, I use the site to create job ads, interview questions, and to negotiate salaries.

But, as a job-seeker, it can be more useful. It can help you define:

1. What areas of experience have that match with the career. You can use the phrases on your resume or your on-line profile.

2. What areas of experience you don't have. You can try to stretch in your current job and/or seek opportunities to gain this expertise.

3. What job-specific personal characteristics you have and focus your cover letter, resume, and interview responses to focus on your job specific strengths.

4. Conversely, identify personal characteristics that you are week on and mitigate them.

5. Evaluate educational programs that could accredit you in the profession.

6. Identify key employers.

7. Negotiate salaries or determine your income earning potential in certain sectors.

Try to search for your current job, jobs close to yours that might be attainable, and some of your dream jobs.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The elevator talk

I can't recall who proposed this, but there is a job-seeker technique called "the elevator talk". 

Let me paint a scenario:

One day, I am visiting my colleagues on the 34th floor of Manulife Place here in Edmonton.  As I leave I see Patrick Laforge, President and CEO of the Edmonton Oilers.  He is waiting for the elevator to go down.  The door opens and we both step in......

What conversation do I have with Mr. Laforge to get a dream job with the Oilers?

Envisioning this can be useful since, as job seekers, we need to engage the people around us to discover opportunities and clearly, concisely express our value to an organization.  It also can help your on-line profile, your resume, and even your interview (more on that later).

Back to the elevator....before Mr. Laforge can grab his blackberry, I say "Patrick Laforge, I'm Jayson Lavergne.  You have some very talent people working for you right now, including some fantastic skaters.  I have always wanted to ask you how does your organization attract and assess talent? I attract and assess talent for the Federal Government of Canada and I love to hear unique perspectives on the issue".

Now, hopefully, Mr. Lafarge hears me. After he hears me, I hope that he compliments my question & gives me a quick response.  If he answers anything like a player, I am sure he will tell me they give 110% and it is a team effort. Once he is done, I would then say, "That's great.  Is there anyone I call follow-up with (as I grab my blackberry)."

Now hopefully, he gives me a name in his organization that I can call, follow-up with, or find on linked-in.  As the doors open, I wish him god luck bringing the cup back to Edmonton and we go our separate ways.

If he asks more about what I do, I then I tell him that I advise managers to support about 17,000 positions in Alberta by sourcing, recruiting, and assessing talent.  My clients include DND, Correctional Services, RCMP, Health Canada and 43 other organizations.

Why is this useful to work through the elevator conversation?

1.  You can establish how, when faced with an influential person, you can establish a professional conversation.  A casual conversation will typically not create a career opportunity.  And yes, everyone is an influential person.

2.  You can create a career summary for yourself.   This summary can then be used in social media & as an introductory section of your cover letter or resume.

Have fun on your elevator ride! I will be trying "elevator talk" out as I attend a 2-day HR conference in Calgary and meet influential HR professionals.  Wish me luck.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Decisions, decisions

For those who have been following me from the beginning, this blog is part advice to people wanting/needing to change jobs & part a story of my own transition as my office is closing so my job is disappearing.  Yesterday, I got the dreaded call that, although I performed well on my recent interview, they had decided to go with another candidate.  There was some disappointment and some relief. 

With some time to reflect and research, it seems that what I was facing is called Bounded Rationality.  This is where:

a. the minimum criteria for the decision is clear. Check - I need a new job since my current lack of wealth forces me to earn an income.

b.  You don't have or are unwilling to invest much effort into making the decision. Ahhh - this could of happened if in week 2 of my current state I were to be offered a great job.

c. you are not trying to maximize the outcome. Bingo! That is why I am relieved to not get the job. I see this as one of finest opportunities ever afford to me to make the next years better than the first 40.
Among many decision making techniques, I self-identify most with the creative style **the author would like to ensure readers understand that many of his personal decisions have not been great or lead to immense wealth and happiness.  So, the author will take no blame for decisions you make with this technique***

This also led me discovering other decision making styles.  I really identified with Creative Decision Making.  The claim is that this style is effective when the solutions to the problem is not clear, when new solutions need to be generated, and when you have some time to immerse yourself in the issues (

The steps to making a decision creatively are:

1.  Problem recognition.  Like, hmmm, my job has been eliminated and I have a time limit to choose what I want to do. Check.

2.  Immersion.  Jump right in a live in the problem.  Check

3.  Incubation.  During incubation, you are supposed to set aside the problem and not think about it.  Sorry, the daily blogging, meetings, peer support is not a sign of incubation. 

4.  Illumination. This is when subconsciously you arrive at the answer.  Hasn't happened yet

5.  Verification & Decision.  This is when the "illuminated" decision is checked against the facts & the opinions of others.

Shirts with "I'm not procrastinating, I'm incubating"  will be for sale shortly. 

This is just the tip of the iceberg.  I will post other decision making styles, pitfalls, worksheets, et cetera, to help myself and my friends.  Friends, thanks for the over 500 hits on my blog.  The rewards are immeasurable.