Since January, I’ve been toggling life and work between the metropolises of Montreal and Calgary. Today I happened to be in Calgary, the location and dynamics and circumstances of which surfaced immense feelings of gratitude and relief. A cause of today’s events, I affirm the notion that ‘less is most definitely more:’
Leaving Chapters bookstore today in southwest Calgary, after a two-hour research session on what styles and formats make for a smart-looking, approachable, desirable and (most importantly) best-seller for my upcoming book, I headed home on my motorbike in the rain, the demands of which surfaced three key notions of gratitude and how less is most certainly more:
Right turn on red:
Montrealers who live on the Island are denied by law to turn right on a red light. There is so much I can say about the odd laws and behaviours of Montrealers (from an Albertan perspective), but I’ll refrain in this case and beckon to consider how much time is wasted sitting at a red light. I can attest that red lights are much longer in duration than they are in Calgary, and thus I will say how incredibly luxurious it was to turn right on a red tonight as I headed home in the rain.
The QST is 10% (okay, so it’s really 9.975%!! Mon dieux!), so if you add that to any purchase, and count in the GST, the cost of everything in Quebec is simply ……so much more (and somehow so much less because of this taxation series). As an Albertan, I’ve been living the luxury of no PST for so long that I have become immune to the impact of what this added 10% has done to everything I choose to partake in, to the point where I’m feeling bruised and somewhat bitter as a resident of Montreal.
As a bicyclist and motorbike rider, I have come to accept that driving my motorbike or my bicycle in Montreal could be considered attempted suicide! Firstly, one typically looks at the foundations of anything and decides if it’s worth not only keeping, but deciding if it is a solid foundation to grow on, invest in or live upon. It appears that Montreal is schizophrenic in this regard: the freeways and side roads are in a chronic state of disrepair, construction and (in my opinion) undrivable. Add to that a culture comprised of aggressive people who are always in a rush to get somewhere, love pressing their horns (really hard!), love the smell of my bumper, drive like they are heading to a final interview with Satan, and really don’t appreciate an SUV from Alberta on their roadways.
I hung out in Chapters tonight for nearly two hours scouring the best-selling books that emulate what it takes to be the very best at life, your career, relationships and the best format and style to convey this to what will become my own and my partner/co-author, of our upcoming career empowering handbook. Several days earlier, I was in a Chapters in Montreal (okay, I love books and I love Chapters), but my experience was so implicitly different that I only stayed in the Pointe-Claire store for less than twenty minutes, due to a series of events and perceptions.
I will return to Montreal soon to resume my obligations there, but I will rest tight tonight at the close of this day celebrating my new business arrangement with my partner, Catherine Brownlee, inarguable one of the world’s most connected people in the business world. Her and I have decided it’s time to launch a best-selling book to build upon her past best-seller Want to Work in Oil and Gas, to bring the content into a more contemporary light.
Tonight I savour the small luxuries that I’d previously taken for granted and celebrate the little things.
Wishing you less,
Somewhere inside the distance fog of approaching dawn today, I reckoned an incessant beep-beep-beep that slowly revealed itself to be the house alarm. The system panel indicated the front room window on the north side of the house was left open, rendering the system unready for arming.
The day before, I had released the screen on this window in attempt to release a trapped bumble bee caught between the panes; apparently, I’d failed to reestablish the seal of the window and forgot to arm the system. Despite replacing the screen and the pane and the contacts to appease the beep-beep-beep, my efforts this early morning were refuted by the system. To minimize my growing frustration and confusion, I decided coffee was the next order of need, but that effort was quickly foiled when the coffee bean grinder would not respond to my pressure either.
With the opening of the fridge revealing a dark interior within, I awakened fully to realize the power was out. With only my handheld cell phone, I learned that I was one of two houses in the entire community of Pointe Claire, Quebec (and 1 of 313 in the larger vicinity) that was under a scheduled HydroQuebec power outage.
What made me so special this day? Why was I singled out to be so inconvenienced on this pleasantly sunny and bright summer morning (albeit without fresh coffee) on the West Island of Montreal? I pushed aside my disappointment of not being able to abide by my original intentions of the day: coffee, yoga, meditation, shower, work …..a walk, lunch, dash to the market ….. finish contract, wine-down ….
With no coffee to be drunk, my yoga was at risk, with no wifi available, my work was at risk, with no work on this horizon ……my entire day suddenly became one of two things: 1. ruined, or 2. under renovation. As a wash of anxiety rushed over me, I contemplated how pathetic our existence is with a full reliance on electricity and phantom services that don’t care to inform us of their intentions and mess with our balance and successes.
I renovated my agenda: I confirmed that HydroQuebec knew of my condition (they apparently planned this attack) and promised to rectify the loss of power, then I tucked my wee dog into his carry pouch and heading out to the streets of Pointe-Claire for what turned out to be a too-long morning stroll and to learn the rest of my world woke in their normal way: with electricity.
When I returned nearly two hours later, with sore legs, an antsy dog in a pouch and a growing hunger of my own, the HydroQuebec truck was fading into the distance perspective of my street. I resumed the bean grinding, ensured the wifi was intact and recalculated my day.
As I write this, the evening is unfolding around me: the EU is on the verge of learning the Brexit results, a raccoon is scavenging in the backyard, a cardinal is picking up the cashews I dropped on the deck outside and the traffic on the freeway within earshot is a reminder that tomorrow is St Jean Baptiste Day here in Quebec as everyone rushes home at the end of a work day. I can honestly say I do not know what that it means to a Western Canadian to celebrate this “national” holiday of which I have neither heard of nor celebrated.
It’s now safe to say that by dawn tomorrow, if the power is still intact and the alarm panel is placated, and the coffee beans are grindable, tomorrow’s agenda could render a totally unscripted array of unexpectations?
Getting called for an interview means your resume worked its magic! It can be almost as exciting as getting the contract. Now that you have cinched the opportunity to meet your new potential, don’t gamble by not being properly prepared for the interview.
How you prepare for the interview, could make or break your chances. Some career coaches are worth their weight in gold, like Carmen Goss in Calgary, who’s been in the H.R. business for decades and holds certificates in both human resources and leadership development. As a career coach, she will assist you in any, or all, aspects of the interview process.
I follow a regular feed by JobBuzz and thought I would share their latest link with you. The concepts are obvious and simple, but worth a reminder as you prepare for your best interview ever:
“1. Understanding the requirement
Read the job description carefully. It is important to understand what is expected from you and whether you fit in that given profile or not. Analysing your personal strengths and weakness alongside helps in deciding how well the job suits you and how to approach the interview.
2. Know the employer
Study about the company where you are appearing for the interview. Know their history, vision and objectives so that you are able to answer questions on it. Research well on their future plans so that you are able to align with your job role and how you can benefit them in the long run.
3. Prepare well in advance
You must be prepared for the basic interview questions. Make a list of common interview questions – like your introduction, your hobbies, your interests, why should they hire you, etc. Practice them well before your interview and try to make them interesting!
4. Punctuality matters
You must reach the company on time for the interview. It creates a bad impression if you are late for the interview. Try to reach 10 minutes before the call time. It is an important step towards creating a good first impression.
5. Dress up well
‘Dress to impress’ is the key to create and leave a good impression. Wear crisply ironed formals, clean shoes and your hair should be neat and tied up. Be presentable but don’t be too glammed up
6. Always be confident
No matter how nervous you are, always look confident. Nobody will want to hire a person who is nervous during the interview, as it creates an impression of inability of the candidate to handle workplace situations.
7. Honesty counts
Be honest in your responses to interview questions. Lying at any point may back fire in the future. You are not supposed to know everything, so it is okay to accept it humbly. It’s better than giving a wrong response and creating a wrong impression as well.
8. Update your CV
Your CV is the most important document which sells you to the firm. Keep it updated by adding all your skills and experiences. You must not fake information in your resume. Your CV should not be too verbose and lengthy.
9. Body language
You are noticed in every way and thus the postures and body language have a significant weightage during interviews. Do not slouch. Sit straight and make eye contacts during conversations. Make it a two way conversation by asking questions and clarifying your doubts (if you have any).
10. Get their opinion
As the interview is about to close, ask the interviewer about how it went and what are the chances of being selected. But do not overdo it. Asking for feedback gives a positive impression of the candidate’s keenness towards the job.”
With the multiplicity of challenges of the current economy comes a wash of unpredictability and change. Many of us have been forced to be creative in most aspects of our lives, where we used to have stability. For example, where we knew the mortgage payment was going to be paid by the security of our salary, and our two-week vacation was always on the horizon, we are now looking at the stresses of how to make these commitments viable, where once they were a given.
From my vantage, I am seeing an incredibly positive response to these challenges. Westerners are intelligent and educated folk and many of us are ripe with entrepreneurial characteristics and potentially profitable connections — both locally and abroad. What makes the West so resilient, is its undying drive to stay current, be vital and not succumb to the expected heaviness, such as that which defines a recession.
Memorable remnants of the floods of 2013, which for many of us are still so raw. Once the literal tides of the flood receded, a population and a community rose strong and vibrant and put back to right a city, and outlying area, in need of re-stabilizing.
The current status is no different in my mind: the West is a product of our global economy, effected by so many factors, drivers and volatilities. Nonetheless, the rapid current of positivity that thrums through Calgary despite any negative influencers is always in play.
Entrepreneurs are surfacing, successful professionals are seeking a higher education, taking a long-deserved voyage, start-ups are gaining funding, the government is responding (in some measures), and the corporate and private communities are demanding and embracing a new assortment of how to rebuild what will surely be the new and best frontier of the West.
The tides are turning.
This video I’m sharing with you was brought to my attention by one of Calgary’s most recognized recruiter, Catherine Brownlee of CBI. Like her, I work with many clients who are “relaunching” their career. The term was coined by Carol Fishman Cohen in the Ted Talk below and defines a broad spectrum of people who, for whatever reason, have been out of the workforce for some time.
The concept of reentering is often daunting, and as a resume specialist myself, I’ll tell you that your most lucrative tool is your resume, since it speaks in your absence. What Ms Fisherman Cohen promotes is to suggest to your prospective employer to initiate an intern program, if they don’t already have one.
The concept of internship alleviates the employer from having to commit to a permanent hire; it allows the employee/intern to regain an income, new work experience and confidence. In addition to this, Ms Fisherman Cohen attests that the best interns are often the more mature individuals, who come with a well-seasoned portfolio and are not shy to dig in, work hard and they know what being part of a team means.
If you are reentering the workforce, I urge you to watch this 12-minute video and at your next job interview for the position that you really want, you’ll show your creativity by suggesting this win-win for both parties.
Time as an asset is a topic I’ve addressed in a previous blog post. I’m stressing the topic again today because time is not only our biggest asset, but our biggest stresser.
Many of us today are fighting time, wasting time and craving time and resenting time. I meet many people in career transition, who sudden have more time than they know what to do with, but are squandering this gift of time feeling depressed, uncertain, angry and often lost in the sea of others like them, yet feeling very isolated at the end of each day.
Over the past few years I have had to alter my usage and application of time, due to a variety of priorities, including health, career, finances and family. I don’t believe I am any different than anyone else when I claim that there feels to be a shortage of time, leaving me often more stressed than when I set out with good intentions.
What better time is there than this very moment to reposition the mind into appreciating this gift of time in this space called Now and carve out positive results? One of Calgary’s top career coaches, Carmen Goss, boldly says to her clients “We can always start again, no matter where we are in our career.” What she means is that we all have the power to change, and we can do this inside any given second if we choose to apply organization, goals and some soul searching.
I’ve recently been introduced to a helpful resource: www.TheUrbanMonk.com For those of us whose noisy minds interfere with quality output, this web site is an island sanctuary accessible to you when you are ready to make the changes needed to improve your health, your lifestyle and coordinate your time more effectively.
A practice I have adopted from the Urban Monk is “Time Chunking.” I’m doing it right now. The object of time chunking is to create segments throughout the day whereby you can maximize your time with minimal distractions and accomplish more (or all) of your task commitments. It takes some personal resolve to close off the distractions, but this method becomes a gift of accomplishment and a feeling of gratitude that you grant yourself.
I like the Urban Monk’s analogy of time as a computer desktop with 15 windows open simultaneously. We apply a small amount of time to the various tasks (we call this multi-tasking), with the intent of managing them all and hoping to achieve completion by the end of the time period (let’s say the end of a workday). Often by the end of the day, several windows are neither touched at all, nor completed as we’d hoped. The results are frustration, stress and an active mind throughout the course of the evening ahead, as we realize these matters must be addressed again the next day. The stress snowball grows, the time constraints tighten. Before long, we are working through our weekends where we had initially planned to take some ‘time off’ but no longer can.
Time chunking is a discipline to close out the less important windows and carve out a segment of focused and undistracted time to get that single task completed fully before moving onto the next task. For example, if I know it usually takes me an hour to write a blog post and I’m already three days behind when I wanted to publish it, this will be my first priority time chunk. I shut off my phone, schedule it into my calendar, if needed, do not check emails and take only minor breaks for water, stretches, etc. If I’m feeling super motivated and my creativity is flowing freely, I might expand my time chunk and get three blogs done in advance and be three weeks ahead.
Please share your thoughts and time saving tips with me and my readers. I believe we can all improve how we use and apply our biggest asset in life: time.
Here’s my micro examination on change:
So, what happens when for your entire life as a certified Class Six (Alberta) driver, you have driven through life turning right on a red. Should there have been occasional moments where you were questioned of your inappropriate behaviour and plead innocent due to the ‘foreign factor.’ A classic example is Arizona, where you can perform a pristine U-ball at a controlled intersection …AND turn right on a red!
When does turning right on a red become a liability, or worse: an infraction of the law?
I’ve been spending a lot of time lately in Montreal and have come to realize how the many movements, actions, efforts and processes we have performed for so long have come to embed in ourselves as ‘natural’ and are really just a hair away from illegal in some places (other than home).
Here in Montreal, turning right on a red light is indisputably illegal! …..IF (and only IF), you are on the Island of Montreal: outside of the island, you can turn right on red–toujours! Considering the great number of bridges and subsequent islands and causeways in this metropolis, it’s almost a comical factor to consider when one is truly trying to obey the law in Quebec, or just being ‘stupide.’
As a Newby to this environment–culturally, mentally, politically ..yadayada– it’s a bit of an adjustment, to say the least. I’ve been a Calgarian for much more than two decades and please don’t think that I think that Calgary is the centre du monde because it is not (unless you are stuck thick in O&G and then it must be), but transitioning into a space inside a law, a politic and a culture are causing me to brake when I feel I should be in the flow.
With so many contenders vying for the same position, one assumes your competitive edge must be scathingly sharp–sharp enough to slice away your competition. So where does creativity enhance your positive results, and how much is just enough, or too much?
I tell my clients my key objective is to create a resume that stands out in a crowd of competitors. As a self-proclaimed artist, I rely on my own creativity to maximize the portrayal of my client’s results, while establishing a format for the reader/hiring manager that induces his interest in the document.
In a recent Harvard Business School research paper “Creativity Under Fire: The Effects of Competition on Creative Production” Daniel P. Gross measures the effects of creativity (very scientifically) in relation to achieving the top award. He contemplates the contenders’ degrees of both motivation and creativity. For example, how much creativity is applied, or should be applied, to win the competition? The choice does not equate to how much creativity the contender possesses, but rather the choice of how much to expend on the project to achieve top results. Michael Blanding does a fine review of this study for those of you who are interested.
Overall, the study concludes that minimal creativity is typically applied when there is a large number of individuals vying for the award; creativity takes a huge leap in volume when not only is the contender rewarded at an earlier stage in the competition (ie: singled out), but even more so when the actual number of people competing for the prize is reduced. So, in job hunting measures, if you get short listed, that would be your time to step up your presentation and creative efforts.
As a resume specialist I strive to create uniqueness in every document I create so my clients are not viewed as mediocre. None the less, every industry seems to have a general standard (or standards) of acceptance that I strive to conform to so as to qualify and quantify my client for the position inside that arena.
My advice to all my clients is to continue to speak your own language of choice, be it technical, artistic, conservative or other, but don’t be afraid to push the boundaries enough to raise awareness of your application, or establish the uniqueness and superior qualities you have attained or possess. If your mom isn’t around to brag about your successes and sing your praises, then who else will?
Yours in success,
Tough times demand change. Fortunately, as Canadians, we are not alone in these times of economic challenges. We are, however, collectively forced to examine some of the essentials and rework them to establish balance in contention with change.
For Alberta, this meant voting in an NDP Premiere during the last Provincial Election and just this week, the greater voice of the Nation voted into Parliament, our new Prime Minister, a Liberal leader in response to the need to change out our Conservative P.M.! Dealing with change is often disconcerting, daunting, stressful, downright scary.
In the past month I have had the opportunity to spend some extended time in the West (Calgary and Victoria, BC) as well as in the East (Montreal). I also drove through the northern states of the USA (North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin), and what I can tell you without reservation, is that we are all bitten by the unrest of our government, at the mercy of volatile economies, and those powers that drive them. All of us are balancing our lives with delicate measures as we wait for the tides to recede and a hopeful economy to return to our shores.
Waiting is tough; it forces us to realize we cannot control some of the major aspects that affect us so gravely. Waiting for your pay cheque to arrive, vacation to come, your children to get home, dinner to be ready, an economical downturn to rise up again, the phone to ring … These things that are out of our control, force us to find strength either from within or from those supports around us.
Over the past six months in particular, I’m working with a lot of people who’ve lost their form of employment and have hired me to improve their marketing documents. For these people, the waiting game is the hardest. Particularly in Alberta, where for so many years the energy industry has protected us from the elements that the rest of Canada has been forced to deal with, such as unemployment, budget declines, housing prices, etc., Albertans are now getting their distasteful dose of hardship. And for Calgary, where Cow Town is a tight network of brothers, sisters and a business community that take care of each other in tough times and finds solutions to help a good friend or colleague survive (we are the philanthropy capital of Canada, folks!), we now must scale back our charity and care for our own essentials of life, with very little for some of us to spare for others.
Setting the gloom aside, we also know that change can be the harbinger of positivity: new beginnings appear from the shadows of devastation. I’m experiencing many clients who are embracing their passions, now that their job is no longer blocking the pathway. I’ve seen family dynamics shift, where the main income earner is passing off the role to his or her partner to manage. I’m also seeing a younger generation become much more involved in voicing a personal politic and celebrating the results of a nation in response to this.
In essence, we have no choice to but to keep moving, keep treading water, keep the faith. Try to find value and comfort in the opportunity to transition a career, rely on the help of a partner or friend, learn a new skill and spend more time with family. If one thing is for certain, it is that nothing ever stays the same.
Love and luck, my friends,
Albertans currently exist in some very tough times. For as long as I’ve been an Albertan (circa 1989), we have been in the proverbial bubble, somehow immune to all the volatility that hurls itself outside of our impenetrable energy industry walls.
To many people this is the Doom n Gloom: the extinguishing of the fantasies–the residential upgrade, the bigger or faster automobile, the month of vacation abroad. Reality has dropped the cleaver on the notions of frills n thrills and taken us back to the butcher block of basics: where our meat and potatoes derive.
Harsh times do indeed call for harsh measures and if you read at all you will know that beneath all these dark shadows is an undercast of contrast: the light. How else could one perceive the darkness?
What goes down, must come up? …. Oh, the clichés…. stop!
In times of devastation there are always opportunities. If you’ve read any economic blogs, or listened to the global investment news of late, you should be primed to take advantage of some glistening opportunities that always reveal themselves as gems in times of strife. Like now.
I digress: I recall in 2008 when I was invited to take on a sales position with a Calgary-based O&G production investment firm that I had approached for my own investment needs. My new position as Business Development Manager was to sell to my clients shares on properties my new employer purchased as a corporation at liquidation (“save our *ss”) fire sales by major O&G producers in the area of the Bakken, ND. As a junior, we would turn these losses around and make profit, and that’s what we did! Our new investment clients believed in the altar of regeneration and resurrection, and then as the markets turned we, too, turned a profit on the losses. Sadly, though, only a few months after I started that position as BDM, the directors of the corporation took a wrong turn and their mismanagement (read greed) turned this opportunity into yet another disaster (read bankruptcy) and the subsequent loss of my job ….and my investment along with those of my new clients.
In times like this, we must resort to the true and honest: ourselves. In a world of changing tides and unknown hazards, we only truly have ourselves to believe in, our passion and essence of existence. Times of uncertainty bring with them unwanted stress, added burdens of financial demands and a very need to pare down to essentials. In these times we need to get real and we do.
As a resume writer, today I’m working with clients who realize that despite the burgeoning challenges, there is an opportunity to sharpen up while others may be licking their wounds. Over the past year I’ve met some incredibly brilliant and optimistic people who are not immune to the effects of our economic crisis, but are equally confident in what they know will become a rising from the ashes and staying ahead of this tide.
I urge you to take this time to readdress and re-evaluate your senses. Consider the space and place you are living and the glimmer of hope amidst the darkness of the ashes of the Albertan energy industry. Trust that there is regeneration in the aftermath and that regeneration always comes from a fall. After all, there is only one way from the bottom: UP.