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SUCCESSS is a State of Mind!

The Monday Rx, a weekly career and job search prescription is back after the summer break, and this edition is about SUCCESS!

How many times have you been rejected, spurned or sidelined, and thought you had failed? Don’t worry. I have been there more times than I care to remember, but am still standing!

Why? Because failures don’t define me. I grow from every one of them. If not, I would be missing the success boat.

But, what if you think that success is a state of mind. What if we change the narrative and acknowledge that we are all living breathing, specimens of success instead of clamouring for that “one more thing” that would make us a success.

What if I told you that when I wrote No Canadian Experience, Eh? A Career Success Guide for New Immigrants, one Ontario college used the book to develop a course for their newcomer clients? Because of that, I have addressed their graduates several times, and right now am working on a project with them. Would you call that success?

What if I told you that earlier in the year, I was contacted by two Ontario universities for career coaching opportunities. I didn’t hear back from one, but I spent the summer coaching staff and delivering workshops for the other. Am I going to view the first one as a failure or bask in the success of the other?

As I write, am in discussions with a company on the African continent to coach their mid-level executive staff. Am I going to wait until it comes through to call it a success? Nope! For them to reach out to me, is already a success. If it becomes a reality, it will just be the icing on the success cake.

When I coached a mentee on salary negotiations two months ago with an 85-year-old Canadian company, she ended up with a base salary of $175K, $32,000 more than what she was offered. And, that’s not the total package. That’s success on both sides.

When I watch the career trajectory of a former client as he moved from IBM to Royal Bank to Amazon and now as VP of Technology at (by coincidence) the same company as my mentee, I thought of his words to me when he got his first executive position, “Daisy, I didn’t believe I could be an executive. You saw what I didn’t see in myself.”

The accompanying image is my formula of SUCCESS. Which line resonates with you? Let each point serve as a guide as you define your own success story. Don’t measure it by someone else’s standard.

Here is an assignment for you this week:

Set aside 20 minutes of your time, grab your journal (I hope you have one), and start reflecting on your success stories, aka your accomplishments. This is a brainstorming exercise, so don’t edit your thoughts. When you are finished, you can go back and edit it to unearth the nuggets. You will realize you are more successful than you thought.

Need help? Let’s have a brief career chat!

10 Tips to Weather the Layoff Storm

It seems we have sauntered from The Great Resignation to The Great Layoff Expectation. There are so many announcements about the layoffs happening these days that employees are becoming jittery, wondering when it will be their time.

Of course, layoffs happen all the time, and they are difficult for those affected, but the disrespectful, and unconscionable ways in which they are happening these days is doubly hurtful. Employees being laid-off / fired over Zoom, email, text, is inhumane!

The reality is that none of us are insulated from layoffs. Although the news is usually shocking, layoffs don’t just happen. Invariably, there are subtle signs that things are amiss, and as companies make these critical business decisions, struggle to maintain a tighter rein on costs, and create “simpler nimbler” structures, job seekers can do their part to weather the layoff storm, if and when it comes.

  1. Keep an eye out for tell-tale signs in your company.

If you are becoming a bit jittery at work because things don’t seem right, and if the grapevine is quite active, conduct your own due diligence. Has the company been in the news lately? What for? Did it meet analysts’ expectations? Did it have a management shakeup? Are there dramatic fluctuations of its share price? This is not to suggest that you become paranoid, but you also don’t want to be the ostrich with its head in the sand. The answers to these questions will be a good indicator of where your company is heading and if you should jump ship.

  1. Take advantage of professional development opportunities offered by the company.

Many employees do not take advantage of their company’s professional development offerings. These may be formal training where you attend classes outside of work, or free in-house courses offered as lunch-and-learn programs. Even if your company does not offer training, don’t forget the myriad of elearning programs available on the Internet, but also on LinkedIn Learning. Although your job may appear safe at the moment, it doesn’t mean you should stop learning.

  1. Be on the lookout for internal vacancies, and assess yourself to see if your skills match the requirements.

Speak with someone within that department to gather additional information about the position and then submit your application. In addition, climbing the career growth ladder might sometimes mean having to make a lateral career move, so be flexible.

  1. Find out if there are opportunities to job-shadow another employee or be cross-trained on a system.

Such initiatives will put you ahead of your competitor, or prepare you for your next career opportunity, whether within or outside the company.

  1. Arrange career conversations and informational interviews to keep abreast of industry developments.

Career conversations are similar to informational interviews but they are usually initiated by your manager. Don’t wait for that to happen. Be proactive. Arrange a meeting to discuss your career aspirations, growth and development. Informational interviews tend to be arranged with people outside your company. They allow you to learn more about a field you are interested in, or to keep current with trends in your industry. These two approaches are not mutually exclusive, so be alert to see if you can use any of the knowledge gained to enhance your current position.

  1. Start a journal of your special achievements, comments made by your supervisor or coworkers, and awards and recognitions received.

Review your performance appraisals. What did your supervisor say about you? What special projects did you work on, and what role did you play? Check your email for messages from vendors, coworkers, even your boss, that attest to your capabilities. All these notes will come in handy when you are ready to brush up your résumé, and articulate your successes in interviews.

  1. Develop and nurture a network of contacts, even if you’re not yet looking for a job.

Many people have the misconception that networking is “brown-nosing,” or it’s done only when one is job hunting. Those are myths. Networking is an ongoing process that takes time to grow, but when you nurture your network, it becomes very valuable when faced with a layoff, or when changing careers. As author Harvey MacKay said, you should “dig your well before you are thirsty”.

  1. Join professional associations, and contribute.

Some people join professional associations but do not participate; they do not volunteer for leadership positions. Their goal in joining the association is to beef up their resumes. Contributing allows you to learn new skills, meet new people and build credibility among your peers. Also, many organizations send their job postings to some of these associations before they hit the job boards. Demonstrating that you are an active member of a professional association will be a great addition to your résumé.

  1. Find a mentor, and ask for help.

Is there someone whom you admire in or outside your company? Contact that person and ask if he or she would be willing to be your mentor. Even if they cannot, you could still discuss your uncertainties or your career plans with them. It’s never a weakness to ask for help.

  1. Embrace change.

There are times when a layoff is just what you may need to propel you to action; to change careers; to do something different. Redirect your energy into something productive and don’t feel sorry for yourself. Take a long hard look at where you are in your career. Are you satisfied? Have you reached a plateau in the company? Is it time for a change?

Bottom Line

After all this, if you are still uncertain about your future, enlist the help of a career coach who can steer you in the right direction. Whatever you do, make proactive choices now, not reactive ones later.

___________

Article first published by the author on Job-Hunt.Org.

Let’s Talk Interviews

Let’s talk interviews! Yes, that dreaded topic where you are sitting in the hot seat, your palms are sweaty, you become tongue-tied, and unable to articulate your accomplishments. Yikes!

On Monday, I had two clients who had interviews. One was for a Director’s role at a hospital; the other for an Executive Director’s role at a nonprofit.

As one can imagine, lots of practise and preparation went into the process, both from their side and mine.

The potential Executive Director and I have been working together for months from developing the career marketing documents right through to interview coaching.

Here’s what the potential Executive Director said in a follow up email:

?“Going into the interview I felt as prepared as I could be. It was 2 hours, with 4 board members and the recruiter.

?I had practiced my presentation enough to not use any notes.

?The recruiter commented that she could see I did a lot of research.

?I felt prepared with the situation / behavioural questions, but her questions were about 5-6 sentences long. I struggled a bit with some of it, but I did my best.”

Yes, some questions can have several parts, and especially at the executive and senior levels, the interviewer(s) will go deep. That’s called ‘probing’.

When this happens, you cannot use surface-level thinking to respond.
 
When they say, “Tell me a time when….”, not only should you have your initial story ready, but you should anticipate that they might follow up with, “Tell me more…and more!”
 
??What did you do?

??What was the impact / outcome / result?

??You mentioned you were on the change management team, what was your specific role?

Here are five of several questions both clients were asked to review…just in case:

Communication Effectiveness: Give me a specific example of a time when an associate criticized your work in front of others. How did you respond? How has that event shaped the way you communicate with others?

Change Management: Give me an example of a time you had to adjust quickly to changes over which you had no control. What was the impact of the change on you?

Empowerment: Give me a specific example of how you have empowered your staff to make independent decisions.

Holding People Accountable: Tell me about a time when you had to provide constructive feedback to a direct report who was not meeting expectations.

Leadership: Give me a specific example of how you have helped create an environment where differences are valued, encouraged and supported.

They were also to keep in mind potential follow up questions.

One piece of advice I offer clients is that they might not know the exact questions they will be asked, but they can anticipate them based on the job posting.

Here’s your Call to Action:

Start practising now! Don’t be caught unprepared for your next interview. 

 

What’s the Matter With Older Workers 45+?

You might be tempted to ask, “What’s the matter with older workers, 45+?”, and the answer will depend on who you ask. We don’t really need a survey to tell us what we already know – that many older workers are sidelined for job opportunities because of their age. And the excuses by hiring managers are many: They are too set in their ways; hesitant to learn new technologies, and difficulty fitting in with a multigenerational workforce. Not all of that is true!

The non-profit organization Generation commissioned a global survey to provide an in-depth view of individuals aged 45–60 who are seeking or working in entry-level and intermediate roles. In an interview on a McKinsey podcast titled, The Economic Impact of Ageism, Mona Mourshed, founding CEO of Generation offered some key insights from the survey. 

  • Midcareer workers 45+ and older who looking for entry-level to intermediate positions are struggling!
  • Older mid-career workers make up the bulk of the long-term unemployed in many countries and they face growing barriers to finding good jobs. Average length of time to find a job for 45+ individuals in Canada and USA is 27 weeks.
  • Midcareer individuals across the world are finding it harder to get jobs—despite rising calls to address inequality and advance social justice.
  • People age 45+ face persistent and rising pressure in the global job market. They are unemployed for much longer and their age is one of the greatest barriers to their finding a job.
  • Those from underrepresented communities face even greater barriers. They engage in 53 percent more interviews in order to get a job offer.
  • Hiring managers have a strong perception bias against 45+. They believe that members of this age cohort have poor skills and low adaptability. They strongly favour job candidates aged 35-44 over 45+ individuals. They believe that this younger age group outperforms the 45+ cohort in every area of evaluation – application readiness, experience and ‘fit’. According to hiring managers, this age group has well-prepared documents and portfolios, offer good referrals and do well in interviews.
  • Hiring managers cite three top concerns regarding age 45+ job candidates: their reluctance to try new technologies, inability to learn new skills, and difficulty working with coworkers of a different generation.
  • Although hiring managers may express bias against 45+ individuals, those same employers acknowledge that once they hire people over 45, those same workers (87 percent), perform on the job just as well as or even better than their peers who are a decade younger.
  • Employers value reputable training and credentialing. Individuals 45+ who have successfully switched careers regard training as being important to securing their new jobs. By contrast, 45+ individuals whose job prospects would most benefit from training, are often especially hesitant to undertake training.
  • Of those who switched careers, 74 percent say attending training helped them to secure their new position.
  • Hiring managers are calling for higher levels of education, behavioural skills, tech skills, and technical or job-specific skills, and they are more often requiring work experience for entry-level positions.
  • Tech roles lead the increase in job requirements.
  • Candidates face more job-screening methods than they did one to two years ago, including background checks, skills and personality tests, group panel interviews, candidate presentations and drug tests.
  • The 45+ who need the training the most to get a job are the most hesitant to pursue it.
  • The 45+ who have successfully switched professions believe that training has been central to their ability to do so, and employers agree.
  • National statistics (Canada, Singapore, Spain and the United States) show that 45+ and 50+ individuals have consistently made up 40-70 percent of the long-term unemployment since 2015.

How Can Hiring Managers Rectify Interview Inequities?

Based on the survey, employers and hiring managers have a lot of work to do. They should address interview inequities and treat it as a top priority. Even when they do hire 45+ individuals. Their biases tend to survive despite their experience to the contrary.

“Like attracts like” is often said. Of the hiring managers in the survey, 39 percent were 35-44 (while 33 percent were 18-34 and 28 percent were 45+).

Some 45+ also share the blame; it’s not just hiring managers.  are not the only ones to be

Recommendations from the Survey:

As the survey states, no single action will solve the challenges uncovered by our survey. Deep-seated societal issues and attitudes lie at the heart of age-based biases, and they will take time to address.

National governments and global multilaterals can publish short-and long-term unemployment statistics with narrower age brackets.

More often than not, global data sets assembled by multilateral organizations combine a wide span of ages into a single bracket—typically 25–74 or 25–54—on which they report short- and long-term employment and unemployment outcomes. This sprawling aggregation of data results obscures the unique issues faced by the age 45+ population, making their plight much harder to track.

Practitioners and policymakers can link training programs directly to employment opportunities, and provide stipends, to support 45+ individuals who are hesitant to train.

Midcareer switchers overwhelmingly say that training enabled them to shift to a new career trajectory. But for the segment of the 45+ population who are hesitant to undertake training, employers should take into account the time and money that they probably cannot afford.

Employers can change hiring practices to get a clearer view of potential 45+ candidate talent.

Shift from a traditional resume-centered interview to an interview process that enables 45+ candidates to show their skills through demonstration-based exercises.

Pay attention to the “Like attracts like” factor. Of the hiring managers in the survey, 39 percent were 35-44 (while 33 percent were 18-34 and 28 percent were 45+).

Employers can rethink current approaches to make it easier to fill new and revamped roles with existing 45+ employees, instead of relying solely on new hires.

Success in reskilling 45+ employees will demand deeper reflection and concerted action by employers to overcome age-based biases within their own organization.

While there is enough blame to go around, some 45+ workers need to become proactive and embrace training as the new rule of the job search road, especially since forecasts suggest that one-third of all jobs worldwide will be transformed by technology. 

As the survey states, older workers are capable of adapting and switching careers and mastering new roles but they cannot meet all their challenges alone. Employers and policymakers need to take steps to counter the rampant ageism.

Finally, keep in mind that older workers are our friends, neighbours, and parents. Do we seize the compelling opportunity they offer, or abandon them to lives of quiet desperation and long-term unemployment?

_________________

Sources:

Meeting the World’s Midcareer Moment (www.generation.org

Download a copy of Generation’s Report: Meeting-the-Worlds-Midcareer-Moment-July-2021).

Download Kick Ageism to the Curb-Your Career Isn’t Over_Crowd-sourced Resource, a resource compiled by this author with contributions from a number of career coaches: 

McKinsey’s Podcast: The Economic Impact of Ageism (https://mck.co/3ERQB5H)

 

Quiet Persistence

 

Don't Give Up

Here is today’s #MondayRx. It’s based on a woman I have had the pleasure of coaching over the past several months. My work with her was minor compared to the work she put into her search:

? She hadn’t worked for over 15 years

? She left her job with the City of New York to move South to take care of her wheel-chaired confined mother

? After her Mom passed two years ago, she re-started her job search

? She is 50+

? She was faced with all the other ‘isms’ you can think of, but, she quietly persisted.

? Two months ago, she found a job as a Customer Service / Covid Screener. Not her ideal job, but she continued her search

? For the third time, she submitted her resume for a Customer Service role with the City where she currently resides.

? The City did not advertise a position (?????? ??? ??????), but she proactively applied. She wanted to get a foot in the door.

? Instead of another rejection email, she was invited for an interview.

? Late in the interview she realized she was being assessed a job as a Deputy Clerk, not the Customer Service position

? Here’s part of our conversation last week:

“?? ??????? ?? ??? ??? ???? ? ??? ? ???. ??? ????????? ??? ???? ? ????????????. ?? ??? ????? ????? ?? ???? ??????? ???? ??? ?????????. ???? ????? ????????? ?????? ?? ?????????? ?? ? ????????? ?? ?? ??????? ???? ???. ???? ???? ????? ? ?????? ???? ?? ?? ?????? ??????? ? ???? ? ??. ? ???? ?????? ?????? ? ??? ???? ??? ??????. ?? ??? ???? ? ???? ????.”

This morning, August 23rd, on what would’ve been her late mother’s birthday, she started her new job as a Deputy Clerk!

If you are facing similar job search challenges, especially with all the ‘isms’ attached, don’t give up! Take a break, if you must, but quietly persist. There’s a job out there with your name on it.

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What Do You Do When You Didn’t Get the Job?

“After careful consideration, we have decided to pursue another candidate…”

How many times have you received an email that said something like that? What was your first response? Did you:

  • Throw your cell phone on the wall?
  • Hit your laptop so hard, some of the keys flew off?
  • Hang your head in shame muttering what’s the matter with you?
  • Call your coach to talk it through?
  • Write a follow-up email with a call-to-action?

I hope you chose the last one – wrote a follow-up call-to-action email – even if you tried some of the others.

Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich said:

“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”

There is truth in that quote: every failure carries the seed of an equal or greater benefit.

Consider one of my client’s experience: She had an interview for a communications specialist role after which she was asked to send a sample of her writing. They were impressed, so they sent her a writing assignment a few days later… and then she waited.

Two weeks passed and she received an email that said, in part “After careful consideration, we have decided to pursue another candidate for this position whose skill-set matches more closely with our organizations requirements at this time.”

Yikes! After all that effort!

Let’s face it, it’ is not a pleasant feeling to receive such an email. Your first thought is to beat up on yourself or to blame someone or something. But, sometimes you just have to adopt the attitude that “it’s not over ‘til it’s over”. That’s the mindset my client eventually adopted.

She phoned one day to say she was “…trying to remain optimistic, but it’s becoming more difficult as the days passed.” We talked through her situation and one of the positive actions she took was to respond by thanking them for the update and letting them know that, although she was not the successful candidate, she was still interested in working for the company and would keep in touch. 

Several days ago, she received an email inviting her to another interview because the position was still open. None of us know the real reason for the opening but it could be any of the following:

  • They made an offer that was declined,
  • Their preferred candidate didn’t work out, or
  • They decided to expand the team.

Whatever the reason, if my client had not followed up to reiterate her interest in working with the organization; if she had fired off an email to ‘tell them where to go’ with their job, or if she had just taken ‘No’ for answer, she wouldn’t have been offered the job.

Here is a part of her email that arrived in my Inbox on Family Day (of all the days):

Client Testimonial for Daisy Wright, The Wright Career Solution. Career Coaching, Interview Coaching

“I’m writing with good news! ______ Canada made the official offer. I signed the contract and I start work tomorrow! I’m really happy and excited to be starting this job.

I’ll write with more details about the job offer later, but I really want to thank you for all your support throughout my job search. Your advice and coaching helped me improve my interviewing skills – and become more confident – by identifying and sharing success stories that illustrate my skills and experience. I’m so glad my Google search for an interview coach led me to you! From the first time we chatted, I knew that your energy, enthusiasm and expertise was exactly what I was looking for.” 

Amen to that, but I can’t over-emphasize how much coaching is a collaboration. It’s having someone you can turn to when things get tough; someone who can help you clear the cobwebs that get in the way when you need clarity or someone who listens. This client initially hired me for interview coaching, but we continued working together.

If you ever receive a job rejection email, here are three tips to help you deal with it:

  1. Assess yourself. Reflect on the interview to see what went well, and look for opportunities where you need to grow.
  2. Be courteous. Refrain from bad-mouthing the interviewers. They were doing the job of trying to find the best candidate.
  3. Follow up with the interviewer. Sometimes the candidate they chose didn’t work out, but because of your professionalism and lack of bitterness, they could decide to offer you the position. You just never know.

Finally, here’s some advice I offer to clients and non-clients:

“If you hear “No” from an employer, it just means “No” from THAT employer. There are other opportunities on the horizon. Just push through the obstacles. There’s a “Yes” somewhere out there”. Don’t give up! There’s a job with your name on it somewhere.” 

Ready to have a career conversation? I am all ears. Give me a call or send me an email.

 

What Happens When You Tell Lies to Gain a Competitive Advantage?

We are living in uncertainty times and no one knows what the new normal is going to look like after this pandemic. No where is there more angst than in the job market. Many people have been laid-off or furloughed, and some of those who are still employed are nervous about their future. And with the unemployment rate at an all-time high, it is tempting to fudge credentials when applying for jobs. BUT, lying on your resume can hurt your professional reputation.

In a blog post titled Resume Fraud and the Law, the writer from Zelikman Law, states, “It is not uncommon to embellish one’s credentials in the course of an interview or through a resume in order to “get one’s foot in the door.” To a certain degree, most people are guilty of some form of self-aggrandizement when employment is within reach.” 

It has become a common practice over the years for some job seekers to do exactly that – deliberately lie on their resume – and it runs the gamut from entry level candidates to executives.

Some of these individuals have been caught fabricating their accomplishments and churning out information that is incorrect. Some have been rewarded with job opportunities by misrepresenting facts. A former Blue Jays manager also lied on his resume and had to resign. Here’s a list of more recent ones:

A former deputy assistant secretary in the US State Department had to resign from her job for allegedly lying on her resume. It appears she had built a career out of faking her accomplishments and inflating her educational achievements. She even created a fake Times Magazine cover. Why would she do that? To gain a competitive advantage!

A former admissions director at MIT was forced to resign after 28 years because it was discovered she lied on her resume when she applied for the job.  She claimed she had had three degrees when she only had one. Why did she do that? To gain a competitive advantage!

An article by Business Insider lists several successful executives who also lied on their resumes. It includes the former CEO of Yahoo, Herbalife, MGM Mirage, Bausch & Lamb, and others. Why did these CEOs do that? To gain a competitive advantage!

In some countries you can get jail time for lying on your resume.

One Australian woman pretended to be actress Kate Upton, and got a government job as Chief Information Officer (CIO). She is serving a 25-month sentence in jail for this act. Why did she do that? To gain a competitive advantage!

Back in 2002, the former CEO of a television station in New Zealand, Canadian John Davy, was sentenced to eight months in jail after pleading guilty to one charge of using a document — his resume — “to obtain a benefit or privilege”. He stated he had an MBA from Denver State University, but the degree was a counterfeit credential sold online. He said he had worked with the BC Securities Commission in Canada. That wasn’t true either. The Commission didn’t have any record of him working there. Why did he do that? To gain a competitive advantage!

HireRight’s 2019 Employment Screening Benchmark reported 87% of survey respondents believe that some percentage of candidates misrepresent themselves on applications and or resumes.

The Georgetown Professor Who Falsely Claimed She was Black

The biggest lie of them all is what Jessica Krug did. For years she pretended to be Black when she knew otherwise. She also created a new identity as Jess La Bombalera an AfroLatina activist from the Bronx. The twist here is that Jessica Krug aka Jess La Bombalera is an associate professor at Georgetown University.

In Krug’s own words on Medium, “To an escalating degree over my adult life, I have eschewed my lived experience as a white Jewish child in suburban Kansas City under various assumed identities within a Blackness that I had no right to claim: first North African Blackness, then US rooted Blackness, then Caribbean rooted Bronx Blackness. I have not only claimed these identities as my own when I had absolutely no right to do so — when doing so is the very epitome of violence, of thievery and appropriation, of the myriad ways in which non-Black people continue to use and abuse Black identities and cultures — but I have formed intimate relationships with loving, compassionate people who have trusted and cared for me when I have deserved neither trust nor caring. People have fought together with me and have fought for me, and my continued appropriation of a Black Caribbean identity is not only, in the starkest terms, wrong — unethical, immoral, anti-Black, colonial — but it means that every step I’ve taken has gaslighted those whom I love.”

Krug, as mentioned above, is a Professor at George Washington University where she has taught African history and African diaspora courses since 2012. Her book, Fugitive Modernities, about slavery, was published in 2018 by Duke University Press, and was a finalist for the Frederick Douglass Book Prize and the Harriet Tubman Prize, named after two Black American icons.

Why do people lie on their resumes and embellish their credentials? To gain a competitive advantage! But what would drive someone to pass herself off as Black and assume an added identity, as an Afro Latina? She has said it’s because of mental health issues she has battled since childhood. I am not going to second-guess her; that’s for the medical experts to do. Did she receive grants, fellowships, scholarships? If so, then it would appear she benefited from spaces and resources that could possibly have gone to Black and Latino professionals. This could be considered cultural appropriation.

Lying on your resume is bad; seriously lying for years about your identity and misrepresenting your lived experience is worse. Whether you are looking for a job or a position in academia, do not embellish the truth. If you do, your integrity and reputation will be adversely affected. Your deception will be uncovered, and the consequences could be severe. You will either have to repay your employer or spend some time in jail. As for Ms. Krug, Georgetown University is investigating, and no one knows what the penalty, if any, will be.

As a job seeker, you may be quite desperate to find a job, but now is not the time to participate in such unethical job search practices. The responsibility is on you to carefully consider what you list on your resume. As the Zelikman blog post states “…when applying for a job, the best advice is the simplest: be honest.”

Sources:

NPR – White Professor invented her Black identity

Forbes – Jessica Krug admits she falsely claimed Black identity 

 

What Happened at Our Quarantine Networking Party

Unsplash

At the start of 2020, the beginning of a new year, and a new decade, many of us had had lofty plans, resolutions and goals, or whatever we chose to call them. A few months in, and COVID-19 has upended every facet of our lives. We are now reaching for some semblance of stability in a world of uncertainties. Some of the everyday things we once took for granted now have a deeper sense of purpose. Chief among these are the relationships between family, friends, acquaintances and colleagues. There seems to be an urgency to connect, of course within the #StayatHome restrictions.

Last Saturday night I decided to host a “Quarantine Networking Party” via Zoom with a few women from my Let’s GROW community. We hadn’t gotten together since January 11, and I thought it would be a good idea to schedule a quick check-in. What I thought would’ve lasted an hour, took two hours.

We opened with an upbeat rendition of Bob Marley’s One Love: “One love, one heart, let’s get together and feel alright.” What is striking about this is, I wanted to begin the get-together with something fun and upbeat. It wasn’t until one of the said out loudly, “Everything is gonna be alright!” (another of Bob’s songs), that I realized we were actually going to get together, and whatever happens post-COVID19, everything is going to be alright.

We took a few minutes to introduce or re-introduce ourselves and discussed how the evening would proceed. We then entered the breakout rooms where the aim was to go beyond the customary “How are you doing?” question and really dig deeper. This idea came from a Quartz article written by Elizabeth Weingarten of Ideas42.org. (Credit goes to my friend and supporter Kasindra Maharaj who shared the resource with me.)

In the article Weingarten says, “In this challenging moment, let’s move beyond “how are you doing?” and get more serious about the questions we’re asking our colleagues, friends, and family…It’s a matter of keeping our relationships strong and solvent during what may be a long stretch of healthy spacing ahead of us.”

Asking the right questions

In line with the article, I preselected a few of the questions to do just that – move beyond “how are you doing?” Each person was to choose any of the questions and discuss them in their group. The seven below is from an original list of 20:

  1. How are you taking care of yourself today?
  2. What part of your shelter-in-place residence have you come to appreciate the most?
  3. What surprising thing have you been stocking up on (that isn’t toilet paper)?
  4. What habit have you started, or broken, during the quarantine?
  5. Which specific place in your neighborhood are you most looking forward to visiting once this is all over?
  6. What’s the easiest part about the quarantine?
  7. What are some things you have realized that you don’t really need?
  8. “What problem—either yours, or something more global —do you wish you could solve?”

The Debrief

We regrouped for a debrief. We learned that someone in the group was recently laid off as a result of COVID-19, and two had been job hunting. Someone immediately shared a link to jobs in the GTA. The others of us are okay at this point. In view of the COVID-19 crisis, it was not surprising during the debriefing to hear comments such as:

  • Family is much more than “How are you?” Deeper conversations are taking place.
  • Nobody knows what the new normal will look like. It is scary in one respect, but exciting in another.
  • People seem to have become more collegial, and empathy and compassion are more evident. This is one thing we would want to see continue.
  • Remote work is here to stay. More employers are going to buy into the concept that remote work makes good business sense. Put another way, the toothpaste cannot be put back into the tube.
  • There is more communication between employers and employees, online meetings are more prevalent, and relationships overall seem to be much better.
  • Those deemed essential workers are garnering more respect. Not only those in health care, but train and bus operators, retail and grocery clerks, delivery drivers, etc. People are waking up to how important they are.
  • Some companies are demonstrating social responsibility by, not only keeping their staff pretty much intact, but also ensuring that PPEs get to some hard-to-reach northern communities.
  • Being laid off come with blessings, but the job search will continue
  • Virtual coffee chats and kitchen table bible study groups have been created.

The last question, “What problem—either yours, or something more global —do you wish you could solve?”, was reserved for the main discussion during the get-together. It was to put legs to a book idea I have been mulling over for my 2020 Let’s GROW theme. It was a question we agreed to contemplate beyond the meeting, but it provided a segue into a brief introduction of Ikigaki.

Ikigai is a Japanese concept that examines all areas of our lives that give us purpose and meaning. “Having a direction or purpose in life, that which makes one’s life worthwhile, and towards which an individual takes spontaneous and willing actions giving them satisfaction and a sense of meaning to life.”

The plan, moving forward, is to apply aspects of the Ikigai concept to our lives: What’s our passion and mission? What can we do in the space that we have? Who can we empower, inspire and motivate? What will our legacy look like, and how can we capture that legacy? Equally important, what are we learning, or what have we learned? How are we growing, or how have we grown?

That’s how we ended our quarantine party – with lots of food for thought, as we consider the book project and where it will take us. The coronavirus may have descended on us and created a lot of uncertainties, but all is not doom and gloom. Out of a crisis comes opportunities, and we need to seize the moment. That’s what the Let’s GROW 2020 project is going to do.

I Was Zoom-bombed On a Career Chat…and It Wasn’t Pretty!

Pixabay

Since the onset of COVID19, and realizing that some job seekers and employees are facing anxiety and uncertainty, I decided to host a few weekly Casual Career Chats where I would answer questions about job losses, job search, career transition. resumes, etc. I invited three of my colleagues, Maureen McCann, Michelle Precourt and Christine Cristiano, to be a part of the panel answering the questions.

The first Zoom meeting was on March 27, and it went without a hitch. Last Friday, April 3, I logged into the meeting a few minutes early to give us (the Panel) a chance to chat before the 3:00 pm start. Suddenly, I saw a message that my screen was being shared, and in seconds the vilest of pornography started broadcasting, interspersed with the N-word. At the time, my daughter and her son were in the adjacent room, and she shouted, “Mom, what’s that I am hearing?” They were not online, and didn’t see the images, but I quickly rambled off what was happening.

As one can imagine, the invasion of my computer screen startled me. I was in shock as I grappled to find a way to end the nightmare. Eventually, I gained some semblance of composure and clicked on “End Meeting for All”. Assuming it was an error, I re-started the meeting a few minutes afterwards, and in a flash, the pornography began. I immediately terminated the meeting.

In speaking with my colleagues afterwards, I learned for the first time about Zoom-bombing. One shared a link to an FBI article on the subject (which is posted below). Prior to the article, I had only heard about the lack of proper security on Zoom, but I didn’t pay it much attention. One reason was that I have had a Zoom account for years, and never had a problem.

After the conversation with my colleagues, I proceeded to do a bit of research, and what I discovered was horrifying. There has been a litany of incidences where hackers have been bombarding online classrooms (from kindergarten to university), and primarily targetting people of colour. A young African American man was defending his PhD dissertation via Zoom when his screen infiltrated. An article in last Friday’s USA Today summarizes what happened to K’Andre Miller, a hockey prospect for the New York Rangers. An online community gathering by a Jewish high school in Vancouver was also invaded. Most of these incidences have escalated since COVID19, when the use of the Zoom app ballooned from 10 million users in December 2019, to 200 million now.

A half hour after my incident, and without contacting Zoom, I received a “Dear Valued Customer” email from them. It was advising me of what they were doing to tighten security and what safeguards I should put in place.

I spoke with Peel Regional Police Communication Bureau to find out what they knew about Zoom-bombing. The woman I spoke with hadn’t heard of it but her colleague did. I then called the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), and they had heard about it, and urged me to take greater security.

Putting the onus on me to adhere to Zoom’s security protocol is not a problem. But, let’s face it, this infiltration of my screen speaks to a larger issue: RACISM! And before anyone hastens to dismiss my pronouncement, let me say this, whenever someone tells you they have experienced racism, believe them. Don’t be too quick to write it off as “playing the race card.” It’s too easy to resort to that, and then miss the opportunity to have a civil discourse on the topic.

Many of us shy away from such discussions because it’s uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable because race is a social construct that places people in boxes, or on a hierarchy that presupposes one group is more, or less, than the other. Herein lies the problem. It’s awkward to argue such a concept, but if we are not prepared to have a candid discussion about racism, we will continue to perpetuate this fallacy.

Many years ago I was invited to speak to a group of university students in a women’s studies class. Of the 50 students, 3 were non-white. During the Q&A, one student asked me if I had ever faced racism. I smiled, then said, “If I tell you I haven’t, I would be lying. I have had my share, but I never allow racism to stop me from doing whatever I want to do or going wherever I want to go. If it means going up, down, sideways or plowing through, I am going to get there. Obstacles may slow me down, but nothing is going to stop me.”

That has always been my approach. Probably it’s because of my Jamaican background, where we don’t cringe when faced with obstacles like these. We deal with the elephant in the room if it raises its head, and then move on. And, by the way, sometimes, the racism is not as blatant as the Zoom-bombing experience. Sometimes it’s the microaggressions that we face in our workplaces, schools, and communities, both on- and offline. They are real!

There I was, with my colleagues, offering free career advice to job seekers and people who feel uncertain and lost during this COVID19 scare, and someone (or group) decided that invading my online space with pornography and racist taunts was more important. I don’t get angry very often, but this time I did. However, I won’t focus on the anger lest we miss the point of the real issue.

I know what I am saying is not at all comfy, but it is not meant to be. Sometimes we just have to call a spade a spade! That said, I am not going to allow trolls to stop me from doing my work. The Casual Career Chat will continue for a couple more weeks as was intended, but with a different set of security protocols.

As I conclude this piece, I want to say I am privileged to have built relationships, and serve a client base from diverse races and cultures. I am the better from the experiences, and I am confident my clients and connections would say the same. But this should, and will not prevent me from calling out racism when I see it, and this one hit close to home.

Related Posts:

New York Rangers Prospect Zoombombed

CNN’s Interview with Zoom’s CEO Eric Yuan

Zoombombing attack Left Doctoral Candidate Shaken

FBI Warns of Teleconferencing and Online Classroom Hijacking

 

Kick Ageism to the Curb…Your Career Isn’t Over!

A day before presenting on Ageism to a group of mostly baby boomers, I asked my LinkedIn community if they could provide some tips on the topic that I could add to my own resource kit to share with the group. The ‘ask’ was for ONE tip from each person.”  The community’s response was overwhelming!

In appreciation for their generosity, I decided to curate the content (mostly verbatim), and make it available to contributors and other interested parties. The information and contributors are not listed in any particular order.

It’s important to note that, while ageism is a two-way street where younger workers also face discrimination, this particular discussion relates to older workers and the challenges they face in the workplace.

Click on the link below to download your copy:

Kick Ageism to the Curb-Your Career Isn’t Over_Crowd-sourced Resource

Keep adding to the job search debate about ageism in the workplace.