January 23, 2017

The evolution of the job interview?

My last two job interviews have taken place in coffee houses, in casual dress and with not an HR person in sight.  One opportunity was found on Craigslist and the other through word of mouth.  Is this the evolution of job search and interviews?

To be clear these are interviews for positions in small, locally owned companies and are by no means for any C level positions.  None the less, they are jobs that require skills and a fairly high level of trust on the employers part.

I’m pretty sure neither employer has ever checked my references.  When I asked them, one of my interviewers said.  “No, you look like a pretty normal person.”   Score one for looking normal.

I’m not sure if this is indicative of how the job market is changing or of it simply the opportunities that I am finding attractive.  I think that employers are looking for ways to cut some costs today and perhaps attract people like me who like a more laid back work style.

The Best Thing in Life is that it totally works for me.

 

 

 

January 3, 2017

This is my second favorite day of the year. The first is the Tuesday after Labor Day when the kids go back to school. Two weeks is a looooooong time to spend with a nine year old when it’s cold and snowy out. I mean really, how many games on Uno can one play?

When I dropped her off at the curb I gave her a quick air kiss and with great glee realized that I had the next six hours to do whatever I wanted. You know, fun stuff like groceries, laundry and cleaning the bathrooms.

Back at home I got into a tense conversation with my twenty year old son over the fact that he had not paid us for his portion of the cell phone bill for six months. The resulting accumulated payment was not well received.

“I didn’t expect to have to pay out that much money today.”
“Well I didn’t expect to find a two inch layer of scum in your bathroom so I guess we’re both disappointed with today.”

Life is hard people and that is just a cold hard, slightly scummy fact.

We haven’t spoken since that conversation. According to the “books” it is actually a good thing if your kid is mad at you occasionally. Apparently it means that you are doing your job.

All of a sudden I am counting down the minutes until I can pick up my daughter from school. On days like this the Best Thing in Life is having two kids.

Climbing the Corporate Ladder

ladder

“I have a head for business and a bod for sin”

My favorite line from the Melanie Griffith movie Working Girl.  An ’80s movie about climbing the corporate ladder.  But is climbing the corporate ladder still all it’s cracked up to be.

Many years ago I worked for a very successful consulting firm.  Lots of young beautiful smart people charging clients lots of money.  Think LA Law.  One of the ladies I worked with was, for all intents and purposes, a clerk.  She processed payments and  benefits for a group of companies.  I remember being in meetings with her department and hearing the consultants encouraging her to take some courses and improve her position within the company.

“I’ll look into that” she would say.

At lunch in the bar (hey, don’t judge) we would find out that wasn’t exactly how she felt.  We discovered that she wasn’t really interested in “moving up”.  She was perfectly happy in her cubicle doing her routine, rather mundane job.

“I like what I do.  There’s no stress and I like the work.  Why would I want to change that?”

A small gasp could be heard around the table.  Who didn’t want to climb the ladder?

I recently took on a part-time temporary job. The woman I work with is the sole office worker for the company.  It’s a small office.  Well it’s not really an office.  It’s more of a workshop with two desks.  She brings her dog to work with her every day and enjoys the two months off every January when the business shuts down for winter. She is a smart cookie, but more importantly she seems to be able to handle any situation that is thrown her way.  Difficult customers, techs who don’t show up for jobs and an owner who is……challenging.  She is a problem solver extraordinaire .  She would be an asset to any customer service company.

As I drove home from work the other day I wondered if she was happy in her job.  Happy in her small “office” with her dog and the same routine every year.  Wasn’t she interested in taking the talent she had and maximizing it?  It got me thinking about my friend from years ago and whether or not pursuing the dream of a corner office and a “career” position is actually worth it or not.

Is it an outdated concept or have I just moved into a different demographic that just doesn’t care?  It seems to me that women these days are more interested in being able to enjoy life than they are donning a power suit and having their subordinates quaking in their boots.  We’ve all worked for one haven’t we?

working at home

In my search for my thing I know that the corporate world isn’t even a consideration.  I would much rather work in my den than have an office or a boardroom.  I would rather talk to my cat than have an assistant.  If I’m stuck with a difficult situation I would rather go for a run and figure it out than sit a computer and debate policy.

Would I like the salary of a corporate level job?  Absolutely.  I’m a bit lost but I’m not stupid.

So that’s what I’m thinking about these days.  The Best Thing in Life would be to know what all of you think.

PS:  The downside of returning to work is that I have no time to read all the other blogs out there or have coffee with any of my great friends.  My sincere apologies.

Get a Job

working man

As my seventeen year old begins his search for a summer job I got thinking about all the jobs that I have had over the years and what they have taught me. Jobs, I think, are not always about learning how to build things, or add up numbers or serve people. They can be full of life lessons without you even realizing it. Simply having a job teaches you responsibility, time management and economics. It can also teach you how to deal with disappointment if you were to, perhaps, lose said job.

My first job was at the Fish and Chip Shop in the shopping area close to my home. I was probably thirteen years old. The owners were a lovely British couple named Rina and Paul. (I think…c’mon it was 36 years ago). Arriving for my first day of work I imagined that I would be taking orders and serving the much loved fish and chips. Nope. The first task I was given was pulling the bones out of the fish in the back of the kitchen. After a few weeks I was elevated to washing dishes in addition to pulling fish bones. Eventually I got to take orders, but it did take a while. I learnt that you need to start at the bottom.

When I graduated from high school I was pretty sure that I wanted to work in the hotel business and I think I know why. A close family friend was a VP with C.P. Hotels. He and his wife lived in a suite at the Hotel Vancouver and had wicked parties catered by hotel. I assumed that this was were I would end up. With his connections, I got a job as a bus girl at the Banff Springs Hotel. The dining room was huge; like football field huge. Breakfast shift started at 6:00am. Huge tour groups would flood in, eat and then leave to catch their buses. Dirty dishes, heavy bus pans and sore feet became a regular part of my life. I learnt that a lot of hard work is required before those great parties can happen. If they ever do.

Over time I realized that hotel/restaurant work was not my destiny. I took a two year Business Administration program at the local technical school with the hopes of getting into the business world. I was fortunate to get a job with an actuarial consulting firm as their office manager. For those of you who don’t know, actuaries calculate the future incomes of pension plans. There is a lot of money in actuarial consulting and the firm did really well. It was all very L.A.Law. Partners meetings, extravagant Christmas parties and lots of office politics. I learnt that some people really do use the math they learnt in grade 12 to make a living.

In 1995 Orca Bay Sports and Entertainment was where I met my husband. It’s a bit of a funny story. When I started working there I was married. When I left, three and a half years later, I was divorced and the mother of a three year old who was dating a co-worker. Talk about office gossip. I worked in the finance department helping with payroll. My future husband, worked in arena operations. It was a very dynamic place to work. Lots of young, energetic employees, exciting basketball games, concerts and the occasional Russian hockey player sighting. What did I learn from this job? I learnt that if you can open yourself up to new opportunities that great things can happen. Also, that NBA players are very highly paid.

When I went for my next interview I didn’t know that the company I was interviewing with was Starbucks. What a crazy experience. The job was Administrative Supervisor for Western Canada. It was pretty intense. To start, I was trained to work in a Starbucks store and had to complete a certain number of hours as a Barista. Regular trips to Seattle included a tour of the bean roasting plant, meeting Howard Schultz and numerous coffee tastings. I spent the first few months learning the Starbucks language. At Starbucks it was never half way. You were either all in or you weren’t. I learnt that some companies want your heart and sole and if you can’t give it to them, it’s not the right job for you.

My most recent position was with a small business software re-seller. It started out as an admin position but eventually I ended up in the sales department. I loved the company and the people were great, but sales was not my thing. If they didn’t want to buy it, they didn’t want to buy it. Who was I to change their mind? The hours were flexible though and the owners were understanding of the fact that my husband traveled and sometime I just wasn’t available. From this job I learnt that sometimes you can’t have everything all in one package. You have to take the good with the bad.

So what advice would I give my son as he goes out into the world looking for a job. I know that my advice should be “Do what you love” or “Follow your passion”. But the truth is that he just needs to get a job. A job that will teach him that he needs to be on time. Every day. That he needs to be able to follow procedures and rules. Even the ones he disagrees with. That he may not like his co-worker, but he still needs to get along with them so that he can do his job. That the government will take a potion of what you earn whether you like it or not. Really, he just needs to get a job and know what it feels like to work for a living. Or in his case. Gas money.