Career lessons from a Dragon Boater Aug28

Career lessons from a Dragon Boater

Hi! That’s me on the Smart Savvy Facebook page with the gold medal around my neck. It’s not 2010 Olympian hardware but it means a lot. In fact it signifies one of the things I love most about Vancouver: collaboration and networking isn’t all name tags and canapés. If you’re looking to network without the business suit (and make some tried-and-true friendships along the way), you can find a hundred ways to get there in Vancouver – from running groups to bike trails. For me, I found my ‘in’ on a Canadian dragon boat team. And, because I so appreciated all the likes and comments on the Facebook post, I thought I’d share some of my favourite career lessons – all learned from my experiences as a dragon boater. Here they are: Just because you aren’t handing out business cards doesn’t mean you’re not networking. With over 80,000 people participating annually in over 300 festivals and events across Canada, dragon boating is a great way to expand your network. A dragon boat team consists of 20 paddlers in a boat with a steersperson in the back and a caller in the front – an arrangement that is culturally and corporately blind (a funny thing for me to write given that I’m part of Blind, Visually Impaired and sighted paddling team). In my paddle-travels, I’ve met people from banking, a Fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, a real-life pool shark, and a ton of other genuine and inspiring people that I have sweat with, cried with, cheered with and networked with in the most genuine sense of the word. And that’s the great thing about dragon boating: sign up for your company or community team and you’re as likely to score a seat next to your...

The Future Works Here: Surrey, BC

Think it might be time to expand your sales or marketing job-search outside of Gastown, Railtown and Yaletown? We think so. And according to this article from BC Business, that ‘time’ was yesterday. Meet your new contender: Surrey, B.C. With its “booming population, new university campus, new city hall, new performing-arts centre and starchitect-designed library”, Surrey is “no longer a punch line for smug Vancouverites,” but a city in the midst of a vast transformation. With a population growing by 14,000 each year, a projected business growth of 10% and an eye on the pain-point laden tech industry, Surrey’s worked hard to attract employers – and the companies setting up shop are trying even harder to attract top-notch talent. That means, higher than average salaries and benefits, quick answers to any transportation-related jitters and a whole lot of opportunity (our favourite word). Let go of the outdated stereotypes and visions of highway gridlocks, and you might just find a “city of the future” – and an ideal place to look for your next role. Here are some of the companies we’re already proud to work with in Surrey – a list we’re expecting to increase exponentially. City of Surrey (www.surrey.ca) Besides the opportunity to work alongside a team of “urban visionaries…reveling in the once-in-a-generation opportunity to steward the lives of millions,” you’ll be treated to an employee gym, on-site cafeteria and coffee bar, subsidized transit passes and reserved parking for carpools, and a plethora of employee events. And in Fall 2013, the whole she-bang will be relocated in the newly designed $50-million Surrey City Hall, conveniently located right next to the Surrey Central Sky train Station. Read more about working for the City of Surrey. Coast Capital Savings (www.coastcapitalsavings.com) Staff discounts on mortgages and quarterly bonuses aside, Coast Capital...

Mind over…manager? How meditation can help your career Jul12

Mind over…manager? How meditation can help your career

On a recent morning commute, in the breathless transition from train to bus to office, in the way I sat down at my computer, scrolling through my emails on my iPhone and then seamlessly transitioning to my desktop interface –all without looking up – I realized it might be time to think about becoming a bit more ‘present’ at work. And that’s not even to mention the irony that, as a recruiter, I was probably immersed in finding one of those ultra-conscious, emotionally aware, strategic, patient, big-thinking leaders that are so in demand. In fact, you might not be seeing it on resumes just yet, but I am certain the next big ‘career skill’ will be this: meditation. Or, as the execs in Silicon Valley are calling it (according to this Wired.com article), “neural hacking.” Or as I’m learning to appreciate it: a new (but very old) way to“embrace the chaos” that is our technological, high-pressure and fast-paced lives. Pause. See… it feels good, right?? Enlightenment Engineers exposes how self-improvement practices like “energy management”and “quiet contemplation” are quickly becoming the new caffeine at outfits like Google, Twitter and Facebook (all of whom have integrated meditative practices into their company culture). And I’m not talking about a poorly attended lunchtime yoga class, either. This is serious contemplative business. To date, “more than a thousand Googlers have been through [meditation] training. Another 400 or so are on the waiting list.” The real question is what’s with all the new-age nonsense? Well, perhaps best said by one Google employee: “My old coping strategy—the bourbon and cheeseburger method—wasn’t working.” Turns out the Valley’s new taste for meditation has nothing to do with incense and those certain ‘green crops’ commonly associated with BC and mind odysseys; “It’s all about getting ahead.” Career-wise, that is....

Fanning the Flames: Emotional Intelligence Online

It seems like you’re always ‘online’ but are you always ‘in-line?’ Text and emails sent at work can be “mis-read,” causing undo tension between coworkers. Say you’re charging along on a team project when an email string suddenly gets heavy. A ‘sarcastic’ comment about someone’s ‘contribution’ was taken at face value. Next thing you know, you’re looking at an email string full of ALL CAPS, bold words and sentences highlighted in red. You get the distinct feeling there’s an undercurrent of bcc’s to managers in every direction. And no one is looking good. These are all key signals, according to author Daniel Goleman, that you’re losing your head when it comes your “online” Emotional intelligence – and that you’re moving quickly from courteous online communication to what techies call, Flaming. In his post, Can we be Emotionally Intelligent Online?, Goleman describes how ‘flames’ – insults, off colour comments, ranting, finger pointing – can turn perfectly legitimate work discussions into ugly throw-someone-under-the-bus fiascoes. A tendency that can be even worse when voices are emboldened by a group setting, online forums or group email discussions, as opposed to the nakedness of in-person situations. “The problem with communicating on the web,” says Goleman, is that “from [his] point of view is it has no channel for the social brain to attend to. Aside from perhaps video chat, you have no emotional signal in real time.” That’s because during conversation, your “social brain” is actively (invisibly, constantly, sub-consciously) reading body language, tone, hand gestures and eye contact in order to understand what’s really happening, making face-to-face the most effective (and natural) form of communication. The main problem with e-interactions, says Goleman, is that you lose all that valuable data your brain needs to accurately ‘read’ a situation. Is your co-worker being aggressive, condescending or accusatory?  Or were they...

Why Procrastination is Good for your Career Jun14

Why Procrastination is Good for your Career

Here’s a question: If your boss sends out an email asking for input or feedback, how long do you think is an appropriate length of time for your reply? The old ‘me’ might have hit reply-all before I’d finished reading the question, just in hopes of looking on-the-ball and ready-for-action. But not anymore. You see, for a long time, I’ve been fooling myself into believing that faster is smarter, more impressive, more productive and, yes, better. But now, thanks to a man named Frank Partnoy and his book, Wait: the Art and Science of Delay, I’ve been freed from the guilt of right-aways and ASAPs. Partnoy, a professor of finance and law at the University of San Diego, argues in his book that it’s just about always best to wait. In fact, he says most of our deadlines are self-imposed anyway. And since we can’t possibly do everything that’s on our plate, Partnoy says it’s all about “managing the delay.” Here’s a good example: that email from your boss I asked about, what number was your inner timekeeper shouting at you? 3 minutes? 10 minutes? The next day? Maybe you were first to hit reply-all, but think about this…What if you’d taken an extra hour or even day to mull the problem over? Could your response have been more thoughtful? Could your input have been better supported through additional facts or analogy? In your rush to reply and move on, is it possible you sacrificed an important contribution or insight – for speed? No stranger to the fast-paced and frenetic, Partnoy used to work as an investment banker at Morgan Stanley. But now, he is happy to call himself an academic. “Procrastination is practically a job requirement. If I were to say I would be submitting an academic paper by September...

Meaningful Recognition and The Awesome Awards

Vancouver’s Most Thoughtful Corporate Gifts Sure, there’s something to be said for the annual sales trip to Club Med or the big fat bonus cheque you didn’t expect. But recognition comes in all shapes and sizes, and corporate gifting practices are most meaningful when they act as a natural extension of your company values and employee culture. That said, we’re excited to share our Smart Savvy approved list of corporate gift and employee recognition suppliers. Thoughtful, on-mark and committed to telling a story bigger than an online transaction with the company card, we’ve put some serious thought into how to make the most of your “oh, how thoughtful!” moments. Employee Awards I was recently told I’m awesome. Not in a high-five over beers or fist pump on the soccer pitch kind of way, but in gathering of community people, with heartfelt presentations, beautiful awards made of reclaimed wood and delicious home made food. Local company, Eclipse Awards (who is awesome in their own right) has created the Awesome Awards – “the world’s first living recognition program aimed at building stronger communities by celebrating the people that make them awesome.” We used Eclipse Awards for all our recognition plaque and trophy needs. After all, how many corporate award companies do you know that have a 5-year plan in place to reduce carbon emissions by 20%? And beyond their environmental conscience, Eclipse is a deep-thinker when it comes to recognition – how it affects the receiver, the giver and even the on-looker. You’ll not only receive great customer service, but maybe a new philosophy on who and what you’re recognizing in the first place.  Congratulations and Condolences More than just a flower shop, Olla Urban Flowers calls itself a “project.” Their mission? To create socially conscious arrangements stemming from a social enterprise mandate in the Downtown Eastside (DTES)....

The Rat Race: Re-Rated May10

The Rat Race: Re-Rated

As a recruiter, I suppose it would be fine enough to fill roles in a perfunctory manner. He needs a job. She needs an employee. Set. Match. But we’ve gotten ourselves pretty knee-deep into wholeheartedly believing in this thing we’re calling #standapart. To live authentically, we think you’ve got to work authentically. Which means matching up what you do with who you are. David Foster Wallace’s 2005 commencement speech to Kenyon College is one of those a-ha life lessons that can be so easily applied to work. If you haven’t read it, you must. Even better, it’s just been released as a life-stopping 9m32s film; so now you can see it, too. And you’ll want to. Because, loosely quoted and summarized, the speech says: “if you don’t make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, you’re going to be pissed and miserable.” As in this scenario a friend recently shared with me via text: “I am working late again covering XXXX’s a$%. Is this for real?” This is one of those times you might draw on Wallace’s words to change your perspective. Even if you’re living your dream life, in your dream career, there’s no way you’re escaping the “dreary, seemingly meaningless routines” and petty annoyances that stack up, one upon another, to form days, months, and even careers. This is the day in, day out living we’re all doing, one way or another. He asks us to “consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable.” Like when: …the person before you didn’t properly wipe down the bathroom sink. …you find yourself making the coffee again …you have to submit expense reports …you bomb a presentation …your boss is a career-limiting, grumpy pants. Ask yourself: what place do boredom, routine and petty...

How to leave your job on a sweet note May03

How to leave your job on a sweet note

So, you’re thinking about resigning. What’s your exit plan? Fast and Furious? Slip out the backdoor?  Halfway in, halfway out? I just loved this story about a part-time airport employee/new dad/aspiring cake baker. Not for the cake (though it looks delicious) but for the thought behind the cake. The short-but-sweet version is that he wanted to leave his airport gig on good terms to pursue what makes him happiest: cake decorating. So he baked his bosses (and their bosses) a cake, and wrote his resignation letter in fondant. If you’re planning your imminent departure from a company – whether you’re senior or junior, happy or mentally absent – please read this article first. It offers several important lessons on how to leave a job on good terms. In my opinion, here’s the top three: 1.    It’s not about what’s next. Have you ever tried to ice a cake before it’s cooled? Hopefully, not. That would be silly. You’d have a melted buttercream mess and your cake would be ruined. When you’re resigning, it’s no different. Try not to be too anxious about the next step without taking proper care of the step-at-hand. Don’t get so caught up in the new and exciting (or terrifying and unknown) future, that you overlook the importance of patience, aesthetics and a generous cooling down period. Don’t ice a hot cake. 2.    Sure, it’s about you. But it’s also about them. I’ve baked a cake or two to celebrate a loved ones’ birthday. After all, what says I love you better than a bon-a-fide handmade cake (especially when Whole Foods makes such nice ones)? And yes, each time, it was about them, but it was also (in my mind) mostly about me. Look how much I love you. Look how much time I spent...

Is The Way We Think About Personal Giving Dead Wrong?

A few years ago, I got to see Dan Pallota (currently trending for Ted Talk fame ) in Vancouver. He was on tour promoting his book, Uncharitable, at the time; the Canadian non-profit sector was facing the possibility of a government sponsored bill capping salaries at $250,000. His message: charities and businesses are “expected to play by two different rules books” – and it’s holding them back. Pallota’s Ted Talk, The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong, continues the conversation. Businesses can spend money to make money, and they can invest in attracting top talent through ever-increasing salaries. Nonprofits, on the other hand, are supposed to raise money and make an impact, without ever investing in marketing, recruitment and the like. Pallota’s asking, what if we removed those operational constraints on charities; what would it do for their ability to “do good?” So, here’s what I’m wondering: can this same idea be applied to companies and individuals? Are businesses and the people they employ playing by two different rule books as well? With the growing rise of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practices – a recent study shows that 60% of Americans think buying goods from socially responsible companies is important – we’re making our expectations of businesses clear. The idea of ‘business for business’ is quickly out-dating itself. We’re using the strength of our purchase-power to send a new message: we want to buy from socially responsible companies that give back to their communities, respect people and protect the environment. And it’s pushing companies to change. But at the individual level, personal giving and volunteerism (unlike corporate giving, which is heavily reported and boasted), is still considered just that: personal and private. Unless you’re participating in a run or growing a mustache, we don’t say too much about it. And,...

Sound career advice? Tina Fey on Bras, Lean Cuisine and Workplace Crying Mar22

Sound career advice? Tina Fey on Bras, Lean Cuisine and Workplace Crying

This week, Tina Fey put out some straightforward “career advice” for women. When Inside the Actor’s Studio host, James Lipton, asked, “How does a woman, like you, make her way through a man’s world?” Tina Fey shared three, no-nonsense workplace guidelines: After laughing, I thought I’d add a recruiters’ take on her advice: 1)   Always wear a bra. Let me assure you, no hiring manager has ever asked me about your undergarments or even how you dress. That said, the clothes you wear walking into your interview – right through to your last day on the job – matter. A lot. From your LinkedIn profile picture to your interpretation of “casual Friday,” it’s about syncing your outward impression with your professional goals. 2)   Don’t eat diet food in front of others. It weakens you. I cringe to think of all the Lean Cuisines doomed to stay forever unclaimed in lunchroom freezers after this comment. The point here is not what you eat. It’s about reassessing your personal/professional boundaries. It’s also about sharpening your sense of what’s appropriate: i.e. proudly sharing your commitments to fitness and health versus a total rehash of your caloric intake. 3)   It’s OK to cry. Sheryl Sandberg inspired a collective sigh when she admitted to crying on the job, saying: “[at work] it’s all professional and it’s all personal, all at the very same time.” I agree. If you are passionate about your job and personally invested in your goals, you may very well, at some point, cry. Here’s my advice post waterworks: as soon as you’re composed, identify the pain-point at hand and create an action-plan for tackling it head on. Then, so you don’t (in Tina Fey’s words) “scare the sh*t out of people,” find a matter-of-fact way to let colleagues know you’ve moved...