Category Archives: Vancouver Women Career Counselling

Career Tips for Vancouver Women

Compassion In The Face Of Job Loss

Compassion In The Face Of Job Loss

When clients come to me for help with their careers they are usually at one of the lowest points in their life. Financially they are struggling, they lack purpose, pressure is mounting to find another job and their sense of identity has been stripped away. Their attitude towards themselves and others has changed.

What erodes rather quickly after job loss is compassionate self-observation. The inner critic, which exists within all of us, begins to take over and one can quickly lose sight of who they really are. The data that is collected and stored within the brain leans more to the negative and often isn’t a fully accurate reflection of self or the situation.

This is a particularly vulnerable time for clients, as the generosity and empathy first expressed by former colleagues, friends and family can start to lessen and loneliness sets in. They could also be experiencing an over-abundance of advice from well-meaning people which can lead to dependence or a feeling of being overwhelmed.

One of the first things we can all do to assist someone who has lost their job is to recognize that what we see on the surface is only representative of what they want to share. The rest is buried for personal protection.

The next step in the process is to help clients develop attitudes that support a compassionate path forward. We need to introduce an honest approach that connects the person to facts rather than fear induced worry. It’s a good idea to employ calming techniques, reconnect to self and others, open curiosity to make exploration both fun and meaningful, and find tools to regain confidence. It’s time for clients to stop looking at everything through the lens of shame.

Build up positive self-reflection so that the client can see how they are pulling themselves up and that they are in control of next steps. Far too often I see clients who have been manipulated (willingly and unwillingly) towards options that may not be in their best interest but they acquiesce because they don’t trust their own inner voice. This is a  mistake. The inner guide/voice was there before job loss and must be allowed to remain vocal because the experience of losing one’s job is just another opportunity to practice their skills.

When we and our clients can use the power of compassion it can help shape their future in ways few could have predicted. It is freeing and the transformation between confusion, guilt, anger and shame to creativity, respect, connection and confidence is magnificent!

 

 

 

 

What Trudeau Needs To Know About Women And Their Careers

What Trudeau Needs To Know About Women And Their Careers

After many generations of women in the workforce we are still trying to figure out their role, needs, qualities and how we can leverage their talents to create more prosperous nations.

The optics were good when Prime Minister Trudeau, President Trump and his daughter, Ivanka Trump gathered with female executives to talk about empowering women, creating jobs and  advancing women’s opportunities. Powerful people meeting to understand the barriers and successes of women in business.

Trump and Trudeau announced their creation of Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders – a long name with probably an even longer timeline before we see benefits. Should we be excited? Maybe, but I will reserve my enthusiasm.

I’m hoping that sooner rather than later that when we hear about a meeting to advance women  we might see a better representation of women at the table. Yes, speaking to women who have climbed the entrepreneurial and business ladder is both impressive and necessary but is it enough to warrant a big “Hurray”, for us?

After over twenty years supporting women’s career aspirations I’ve learned there are commonalities in how women approach their careers but I also know that it’s a mistake to assume women’s needs are the same. If advancement is the goal then one must first figure out which road they are travelling on and meet them where they stand. It is also helpful to be more inclusive because tomorrows entrepreneur or leader may come from unlikely beginnings.

Let me give you a sampling of the women I serve who could add value to this council:

Young single women just starting their careers full of hope, naivety, high expectations, nervousness and often untested confidence.  Up to this point, they have usually not experienced overt sexism on the job and haven’t had to market themselves for promotions. Most of these young women have disclosed a desire to make a difference but work isn’t everything. Full of ideas and energy it should be easy to mentor young women.

Mature business women with multiple experiences that have shaped them personally and professionally often say, “I want to remain relevant.” They may be changing their career direction or just starting to ask, “What’s next?” There is no shortage of mature women being over-looked by employers which leaves many of these women feeling like they have gone as far as they could or are allowed to go. Not leveraging their talents is a big mistake.

Immigrant women try to learn English while navigating cultural, educational and career changes. Many have experienced isolation in this new country but demonstrate strength and gratitude. I have met professional immigrant women have been surprised and disappointed when they found resistance in hiring not because of ESL but because of racism or protectionist attitudes.  We need to do a better job of advancing their education and creating connections that bring these women quicker to the table. (Creating meals in the back of restaurant is no place for a former Psychologist)

Aboriginal women, many but not all, face significant barriers to employment. Struggling with literacy, poverty and lack of transportation they know what impedes opportunities for success. Honoring aboriginal culture and meeting together we learn a lot about the how, why and where they wish to work. More emphasis needs to be placed on aboriginal representation in business. We need to nurture the entrepreneurial spirit so job creation happens in communities that need it most.

Moms returning to paid employment often tell a similar story. It’s common to hear how both male and female staff responded to their request for maternity leave negatively – as if it is placing a burden on the company or on individual staff members. Women making the choice to start a family also talk about the competition to keep their job and are concerned about what it will be like when they return. Moms returning to paid work tend to feel more pressure to keep up and not be perceived as unable to balance both family and career. Their jobs are placed in jeopardy because they still remain the first point of contact for family emergencies. (I haven’t even covered trusted/affordable childcare needs)

Women survivors of violence who have dreams of a better and safer life. These women – as diverse as they are – eventually reach a point where they can access services designed to empower and create work opportunities. If Trudeau and company were truly interested in supporting these women there would be centralized health organizations addressing their needs from start to finish instead of the fragmented systems/services we have now. Many women leaders and entrepreneurs have been born from a necessity to survive and thrive.

If we really want to advance women, then the next time these executives meet with the leaders of nations try saving some chairs for women who understand maternity, community, economy and management from a different but very real perspective.

 

 

 

Permission To Switch Off Your Job

Are you always thinking about work? Never too far away from your phone or computer? Readily available to solve, coordinate or manage something? Do you believe that without your skills the organization will crumble or someone better will come along and replace you?

Then you are not alone.

Giving yourself permission to switch off at the end of a long work day can be tricky. Many people struggle to separate themselves from their job long enough to enjoy time for self and family. Common statements are, “Well if I don’t do it then it probably won’t get done” or “They expect me to handle these things, it’s the nature of the job” or ” I don’t mind. It will just take a few minutes and then I can take a break.”

We are all susceptible to becoming creatures of habit plagued by delusions of grandeur.

Our jobs can become our identity and our home is a cubical with air conditioning. Maybe we are lucky enough to have an office suite on the 20th floor of a building but likely haven’t taken in the scenery since the first day the work station was offered to us. Even as we ride transit or drive along in our cars we are still reachable to discuss business. We simply can’t (or won’t) turn off.

If you live and breathe work I suspect the only time you give yourself permission to step away from your job is when you’ve paid hundreds of dollars for an off-the-grid vacation or your doctor diagnoses you with a significant health problem. The vacation sounds nice but your doctors message doesn’t.

ache-19005_1280

If you think it is time to switch off your job maybe the following suggestion will help.

  1. Critically examine the consequences of always being available for work. Is this truly working for you or against you? Do others suffer as a result of your work schedule? If you don’t know the answer to that question then ask them.
  2. Find your voice and practice advocacy. There are many benefits to identifying your needs and speaking your truth. Sometimes our managers or colleagues are unaware of how much responsibility is being placed upon us and it is our job to communicate boundaries.
  3. Be realistic. Our fears about what will happen, if we are not available 24/7, are usually not based on fact.  When you are lying flat on your back in a hospital room there comes a sobering moment when you will realize the world goes on without you.
  4. If you can’t see what is possible beyond work then appoint someone who will show you the way and keep you in check. It is hard to switch off the brain and resist the urge to respond to the various tones that indicate someone is messaging you. You might need a sober buddy to assist you in your transition from work addict to leisure lover.

 

You Are Not Irrelevant – A Career Woman’s Journey

I could tell in her eyes and by the way she described herself in past tense that this career woman had lost her way. This bright woman of 40+ had a rich background of experience and she eagerly shared stories about how she moved her way up to greater responsibility – until she was laid off. For purposes of this blog I will name her Joan.

Joan had spent the better part of the last two years trying to find a job. She shows the signs of exhaustion, fear and she wondered aloud, “Am I irrelevant?”

identity-801212_1280

Before being unemployed people knew who she was. Joan was sought after by colleagues, clients and stakeholders for her expertise but now she feels like she has been benched. She is sitting at the sideline waiting for another chance to show her worth.

Joan tries to apply for similar positions and has even begun to investigate a complete career change. After every resume goes out or interview happens she questions, Am I over-qualified? Under-qualified? or Are they just not seeing my value?

She had her share of no responses to applications and disappointing results from interviews she thought she aced. She knew that some positions were not the right fit and so she was screened out. When she realized a position would have her working under a boss who was twenty-something she screened herself out.

Joan considered an entirely new job, based on the advice of friends, but the prospect of investing in further education and other changes in lifestyle just wasn’t very appealing.

Tears welled up from time to time and smiles would surface when she recalled better professional days. Moments of Ah Ha! would brighten the dark tunnel she was passing through but this can’t be all there is. Joan is too skilled to be irrelevant!

I listened intently because I knew that the story, the vulnerability, the fear of the unknown, the questions surrounding her own qualities was not confined to her own sacred space but now for others to see and hear.  This once confident business woman was full of self-doubt and it showed not only in the person, but on paper as well.

Joan’s resume was trying too hard to tell the whole story. The language so specific to her industry and so smothered in details it was clear she wanted to be noticed. It dropped names as if everyone should know the players and provided short testimonials like a hybrid of a resume and reference letter. It was inundated with facts and figures as sentences bled more and more over the pages – four pages in fact.

It was clear we needed to work on so many levels and so began a trek through the tunnel together to shed some light on the reality of her situation.

Joan no longer had her pulse on what’s happening in the business community. Her connections were mainly with a couple of friends and close family. She spent many weeks never seeing a single soul, just looking for work by pressing buttons on a keypad, dressed in her “comfy clothes.”

She was living in the past. Sounding more like she was reciting her own eulogy rather than speaking about a living being. Each past tense reference was noted and I asked her to re-frame many of her sentences. Joan needed to find out that the skills and unique qualities she possesses are relevant and transferable to multiple work environments. I told her, “We just need to identify which ones you want to travel with.”

Joan valued time spent giving back to her community and had applied for a couple of jobs at not-for-profit organizations. Given her four page resume was quite over-powering for any reader, and heavy on corporate speak, we began to deconstruct her resume. Joan was not speaking their language and made the classic mistake of thinking her expertise would speak for itself. I suspect most readers needed an interpreter or simply gave up.

We looked at the vast differences between how applicants approach job search and how employers find applicants. Her eyes widened as she realized applicants and employers were traveling in opposite directions. We talked about the information highway and resources that can help get her back on the right road instead of feeling like she is driving around the same traffic circle.

The fact is most people don’t know Joan exists, despite the multiple times she has hit the send button on her computer. She “used to be” a go-getter. Joan chaired meetings, schmoozed with the business crowd, sourced people and introduced people so it falls within her competency to connect. She’d simply lost her confidence.heart-741499_1280

Joan and I moved through a process that was long overdue. I saw a change in her clothes and make-up, the way she sat and how she spoke. She was slowly holding her own light and not hiding in the dark. She began to trust her own ideas and not immediately look for validation with, “Is that OK?” or “What do you think?” Joan was beginning to see the difference between what she can market today and what can be left as a good work memory.

I’m not going to give you a fairy-tale ending, as Joan is a woman on a journey. But I will share this…

She began to make connections in the business community, she was deeply thankful for the time we had together and most importantly she now knows JOAN IS RELEVANT.

(Thank you to all the women I have worked with, like Joan. You continue to inspire me)

 

 

Working for love or money?

Are you still in love with your job or is it just a way to pay the bills?

In 2013, Monster Worldwide Inc. and GfK, a market research firm, conducted an international survey that revealed who liked their jobs and who didn’t. Interestingly, 64% of Canadians surveyed said they loved/liked their job.

Could you say the same?

So many things influence job satisfaction and the following are some examples:

  • Sense of Purpose
  • Creativity
  • Positive team environment
  • Control
  • Opportunity to grow
  • Security
  • Company respect for family/work
  • Challenge
  • Recognition for a job well done

It can easily be said that every positive reason for job satisfaction listed above the opposite forms the basis for an unhappy worker.  Work can give us more than just a pay cheque but for some the pay is the only thing that is keeping them there.

It can be torturous to get up and go in to work everyday knowing that what awaits you is draining your soul.

If you love your job then I salute you! If you don’t love your job anymore then one attribute that needs to be developed in a hurry is courage. Through sheer will, friends/family support or outside guidance one must find a way to build the courage to open doors previously passed by.

The people who have found happiness in their jobs have achieved this in full or in part by reinvention. A quest to find the right fit results in working with love and for the love of their chosen field.

I have long been a fan of Joseph Campbell and use his quotes often in my workshops. Here is one quote I feel is appropriate today:

“The call rings up the curtain, always, on a mystery of transfiguration. The familiar life horizon has been outgrown; the old concepts, ideals and emotional patterns no longer fit; the time for passing the threshold is at hand.”

Retention Strategies To Help Employees

The success of an organization can be attributed to many things but without a doubt the employee is right up near the top of that list. Employees play a huge role in the success and failure of an organization because beyond production value they are also likely to be establishing more contact with clients or customers. A positive contact translates into increased awareness, additional opportunities and dollars.

A recurring topic of conversation I have with people is about workplace culture. Former and existing employees, colleagues and clients share that despite a willingness to develop their careers the challenges faced while attending work often has them re-evaluating their value and questioning their professional future. It is a sad fact that many businesses lose very talented staff because they do not keep their eyes on the prize.

I believe there are three key retention strategies to help employees:

  1. Job Orientation
  2. Mentoring
  3. Effective Management

Job orientation helps clarify policies, procedures and expectations. Each of these are integral to ones understanding of a workplace and assists with matters of safety, structure or responding to challenges. It is truly unrealistic to believe anyone can work effectively without proper orientation. The person who is negatively impacted the most is the new or transitioning employee. Feelings of insecurity and an inability to be decisive in situations is not uncommon but could be avoided with a proper introduction.

Mentoring through a senior staff person can help any employee to rise up and feel like they can be successful in their position. They can see the potential for growth and become aware of unknown talents. Mentorship also serves as an introduction to the unofficial side of an organization. When employees feel supported by their colleagues and know their “back is covered” it makes for a much more harmonious work environment. I had the privilege of having an assistant manager early in my career that acted as a mentor and her influence shaped the woman I became professionally and personally. She made a difficult job a rewarding experience.

Effective management could be described as two words at odds with each other. I’m sure there are many managers out there that have days when they feel that way. With pressure coming from all sides and policies that may be established by people who have little understanding of day-to-day operations, it is a challenging position. However, successful managers learn to work within constraints and still maintain the respect of their employees.

I have experienced managers that are like bulls in a china shop and whose arrogance hinders their ability to gain support from their colleagues. I have also worked with managers who are genuine and open. They trust their employees, listen and never badmouth anyone. They are not friends but true colleagues. A good manager builds their own emotional intelligence so that they can better support the team. It is like placing the oxygen mask on yourself before assisting others.

The employee that displays a keen interest in the needs of her/his position, clients and colleagues might extend themselves in a way that is not to be difficult but comes from a desire to do better and be better. It is so important for managers to recognize that distinction.

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink and that is also true for employees. Employee retention is not easy but successful organizations implement strategies and realize the impression a manager leaves makes a huge difference.

 

 

My Own Resume Review

At the beginning of a new year I like to review my own resume. It is a funny process for me because part of the journey is to take stock of what has changed and the other part is life reflection.

I begin by taking into consideration additional courses I might have completed plus review my skills and expand on information where applicable. Being that resumes should meet and exceed employer’s needs I realize the content will be adjusted to reflect what I can offer.

As much as I can give advice to others about resume development I will freely admit I find it difficult to craft my own. The more experience I gain the tougher it is to resist the urge to include it all. I struggle with the same dilemma most professionals face which is how much is too much and what is too little. I become obsessed with the document to the point where I have to force myself to walk away from the computer.

I have lost sleep over resume development after waking up in the middle of the night with what may be the correct sentence for one solitary point. It is silly how much pressure resumes can put on us because we want to get it right. Imagine being in my shoes when the expectation is that I MUST get it right.

Typically I have chosen a combination resume because after years of doing contract work I find it better to just focus on the skills. My dates are on the second page with my related work history along with education, activities, memberships and awards. It is strong but I always question am I missing anything?

This is where a second or third set of eyes to review what I have and provide feedback would be helpful. Preferably it should be someone who knows me well professionally and has seen me in action but sometimes that’s not possible. Regardless, something has to be done because my normally critical eye is blurry when it comes to my own resume. I’m simply sitting too close.

Now, let’s talk about self reflection. One thing I do find interesting is traveling back in the years and realizing just how far I have come. Life was happening during all of those jobs. I did sweat the small stuff and survived the really big stuff. There were times when I shared nothing with my colleagues and times when I shared too much. As I rewind it is apparent there is always so much to learn and I can’t judge myself nor anyone else.

I look to the lines on my face just as much as the lines on the page and know there is some wisdom that has been gained. When it comes to the resume I want desperately to have the reader find the essence of how, why and what’s to come. If there is something I can offer you, especially if you are challenged by a resume, it is to see it as part of a larger picture.

We can create a cover letter, an opportunity for introduction or interview that allows us to share more of what we have to offer. If you are too close to the document then find help because it is better capture the uniqueness of you than to undersell those valuable qualities.

 

Employers – What type of resume do you prefer?

“What type of resume style do employers prefer?” As a career consultant I frequently scour the Internet to see what is the latest resume style advice for job seekers. What I have come to realize is that many writers say things like, “Employers prefer…” or “Employers don’t like…” but almost all of the articles or blogs do not have a single quote from an actual employer.

After reading these articles I have questions of my own:

  1. Who are these employers?
  2. How many employers did they contact and how?
  3. What industries are they targeting?
  4. Where are these employers located?

QUESTION MARK

One thing that can be agreed upon in our field is that a Functional resume is difficult sell to employers. It lacks dates and often employers feel like the applicant has something to hide. Chronological and Combination resumes still have their place but with today’s highly competitive application process one needs to strategically compose these types of resumes.

I doubt that most of what you read on the Internet about resumes has been properly evaluated by people who are directly in the position of hiring. Recruiters are known to provide opinion but again we rarely see anything attributed to an actual recruiter and even if we could we can only assume they have the expertise and contacts necessary to give an accurate account. I have always thought that the resume format recruiters prefer, given the expediency of screening, might be very different from other businesses.

This year I want to make it my mission to gather more feedback directly from employers about their resume preferences so that my clients have more to go on. I’m not saying it will be a large sampling but at least if I’m going to talk about it I want full disclosure when I do.

CALLING INTERESTED EMPLOYERS!

I encourage any employers reading this blog to reach out to me by blog comment, email or phone to provide their opinion about resume styles.

Whenever I meet or speak with an employer I’m going to take a moment to ask, “What type of resume do you prefer and why?

If you know someone who may be able to shed some light on preferred resumes for an industry or company feel free to be in touch.

When I feel I have compiled enough data I will let you know about my findings and in particular disclose, Who? What? and Where? Then you can decide if what you are reading is effective resume advice or just regurgitated old resume news.

 

 

Summary vs Objective on a Resume

News Flash: It’s not about what employers can do for you, it’s what you can do for the employer.

Did you know that Objectives on your resume may not help you? With the advent of software programs that can screen in or out applicants based on key words today’s job seeker needs to be very selective about what they say in their documents. Add in the plethora of candidates who may have similar or more impressive backgrounds and it is even more important that you do what you can to stand out from the crowd.

I recently found an article on the topic of writing a summary statement rather than an objective. It has really good points that make the case for changing it up a bit to bring out your “A +” game! Follow the link below.

Trade Up to an Executive Summary

applynow