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.