Girl Talk Career Blog

June 18, 2010

Newsworthy Networking: Tipping the Sympathy Scales

Filed under: career worthy — lisalahey @ 3:03 am
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 Girlfriend, in the world of networking now I’ve heard and seen everything.  This story is utterly true.  It is a networking story that will make your head spin and warm your heart yet it happened right before my very eyes.

It all started with a few teardrops. I went shopping with a friend (“Patsy”) the other day.  We were browsing about doing our thing and finally made our way to the checkout.  My friend looked up and lo and behold there was her high school friend she hadn’t seen in ages! They were both delighted to see each other again.  It was all very Leave It To Beaver Suddenly my friend’s friend (let’s call her Nora) began to cry.  She tried hard not to.  I was stunned.  She wasn’t making any sounds but tears were streaming out of her eyes and she was red-faced.  I asked her what was the matter but she couldn’t even answer and tried her best to compose herself.  The store manager was on the ball. She came over, excused Nora very nicely, finished checking us through and we left. 

Patsy and I of course mused on that one all the way home. 

“I’m going back to see her before I go home today,” she told me.  “I have to find out what’s wrong or I won’t sleep tonight.” 

You’d better call me and tell me or I won’t sleep either!” I shrieked, which wasn’t true of course.  I just wanted to know.

Patsy later informed me that Nora was a graduate from teacher’s college who was unable to get a job. Nonetheless, she had a condominium of her own to pay for along with her tuition fees and there she was making barely anymore than minimum wage.  No wonder the girl broke down in public and at her place of work no less.  If anything will cause a person to break its got to be money

I repeated the story to my friend “Harvey” who happens to have a father who is a retired school principal.  When Harvey’s friend heard the news he felt sorry for this girl.  He contacted Patsy who is a friend of Harvey’s too and got the full story from her.  Are you still with me?  Harvey, Patsy and I are friends.  Patsy and Nora are friends with each other. Nora is making minimum wage and worried sick about paying her bills.  I’m the tag-a-long and the blabbermouth in the story.  (You know this is all sounding so much like an LSAT logical reasoning puzzle.  What the heck.  Here’s a sketch).

ME     ———-  PATSY  ————–HARVEY 
                          /                       /
                    NORA         HARVEY’S FATHER

Okay so a Venn Diagram would have been more accurate but WordPress ain’t CorelDraw okay? Anyway.

Patsy informed Harvey about Nora’s woes who informed his father who contacted Patsy and got her opinion about Nora.  It turns out Nora came highly recommended.  So Harvey’s father, being the good guy that he is, contacted Nora. He asked her if she would be interested in him putting in a word for her to the school administrator at the school where he had retired from two years earlier.  Ummm…. I don’t think Nora hesitated very long before she shrieked YES!

So Harvey’s father put in a recommendation (not a reference since he doesn’t know Nora and there is a qualitative difference between the two) and Nora submitted her resume.  Since then I don’t know if Nora got hired but I’m betting this story will evolve into Nora paying her bills and living happily ever after in her condominium.  Wow. 

True story.  What were the odds?  Things could have played out very differently.  Suppose Nora had a stiff upper lip and  didn’t break down at the cash register that day.  Suppose Patsy and I didn’t shop at Nora’s store.  Suppose Nora didn’t know Harvey.  Suppose Harvey’s father wasn’t a retired school principal.  Nora in all likelihood would have no leads whatsoever and still stressed to the point of emotional breakdowns, poor soul.  But that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.  Talk about networking with a weird twist.  Which brings me back to the beginning.

It all started with a few teardrops…


May 22, 2010

Women in the Workplace: Welcome to the Jungle Baby!

Filed under: All Things Office — lisalahey @ 11:58 pm
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Girlfriend before you start grumbling about how much you hate your job, how crappy the pay is, how much overtime you have to work and how much you hate your boss, consider women in the workplace in the mid-20th Century and how tough they had it away back then. In the late 1930’s at the outset of the 2nd World War women were necessary at work, in the office and in factories building armaments and anything war-related. They were trained as mechanics, plumbers, electricians, riveters, assembly line workers, you name it, we did it Girlfriend, truly a first in 20th Century history for women of the middle class. Now this is not to imply that women have never worked in factories or performed laborious back-breaking industrial labour. Consider the Industrial Revolution where women worked alongside men and children for up to 14 hour days for a pitiful wage and few breaks. However that is an entirely different era and not one I’m tackling in this blog.

Back to women in the workplace during the war. They worked hard, made superior weaponry and of course earned lower wages than men doing the exact same work even though women were more productive.  Women and beauty remained a significant focus and women had to be encouraged through media propoganda to protect their own safety by re-styling their long, curled hair into what became known as a Gibson roll.  Factories even installed beauty salons for women to have their hair rolled, then released from its pins and re-styled at the end of the day.

After their men returned from the war women were demoted and fired, making jobs available for men and enslaving women into the suburban housewife myth of the 1950s. Women didn’t want to be forced into suburban submissiveness although the American government, their men and the media worked hard at trying to guilt-trip them into accepting the status quo. Many women rebelled however and over time they were re-hired into assembly line work and other low-paying menial jobs.

When women entered the corporate workplace it was typically in the role of secretary or receptionist.  They may have experienced some triumph by re-entering the workforce but their battle had just begun. Let me interject for a moment. Receptionists and secretaries are as relevant to an organization now as they were last century and always will be (see my post Are Secretaries Doomed to Obscurity?)  I have great respect for them especially since I have worked as both over the years and thoroughly enjoyed the job for the most part, as well as learning how integral this role is to an organization. My point is not that secretaries are inferior, rather that women of this era were not hired for responsible, senior positions. They were offered virtually no powerful corporate opportunities. There were no women CEO’s or Presidents which hardly surprising considering both the sexist view of that time and how few women were encouraged to acquire a post-secondary education.  Many men and even women remained unimpressed by the number of women who insisted on the right to work. Americans and Canadians felt strongly that if a woman was married and her husband was employed she had no right to return to work but instead should embrace her role as a stay-at-home housewife.

However once middle-class society got it into its suburban head that women were returning to work propoganda slowly began to encourage the use of women in the workforce, albeit allowing for stereotypes to permeate supposedly women-friendly views. Incredibly office advice for women hasn’t changed much since then. Etiquette is extremely relevant of course but consider this delivery.

Along with women entering the corporate scene the issue of women and men co-mingling over the water cooler became cause for employer and spousal concern.  The notorious office romance began to bloom and along with it corporate problems. Sexual harassment was par for the course and not only was it not considered inappropriate it was blatantly promoted.  Over time the secretary became known as the “office wife” since she managed her male boss’s calendar, often ran personal errands for him such as picking up his dry cleaning and occasionally indulged in an after work drink with him. Uh-oh. For married bosses that arrangement occasionally turned into an office affair although in the 1950’s it was rare that a married man left his wife for his mistress. Divorce was frowned upon , it bore a significant social stigma particularly during the fragile post-war era, hence the higher percentage of lasting marriages.

That gender discrimination continues to exist in the workplace is unmistakable. Unfortunately some women try to overcompensate by working much harder in the same role as men, usually for the same or less money.  Others may behave like office bullies, operating under the mistaken perception that behaving in “tough guy” mode will enable them to maintain job security. That sexual and other harassment continues to plague women is undeniable and although there are many laws in place to counteract this behaviour harassment can be subtle enough or can cause enough jeopardy to a woman’s career that she is reluctant to report it.

However slowly changes are beginning to take place albeit in certain spheres under specific, limited circumstances. Have we come a long way? Undoubtedly. Do we still have a long way to go Girlfriend? You know it.  But next time you’re feeling pissy about getting passed over for a promotion (see my blog How to Be Your Own Change Management Consultant (and a little help from David Bowie)), or feel underpaid and overworked, take a glance back over the workplace history of women and take a little comfort in the opportunities you have educationally, professionally and financially. Had you gone through school and the work force when your mother or grandmother did there is no way you’d be sitting where you are now, and no way you’d be headed down the highly successful corporate path you’re carving out steadily and courageously for yourself now.

5 Steps to Building and Using a Resume Toolkit

Filed under: Resumes — lisalahey @ 4:44 am
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A resume toolkit is NOT a work portfolio although it can include one. You’ve heard the old resume advice to tailor your resume to the job description but have you ever written out a resume, submitted it and then realized you forgot something vital? That happens to a lot of people and its no wonder. You’re always re-writing and tailoring your resume (if you have resume savvy Girlfriend and I’m sure you do) but what about building a resume toolkit that lists absolutely everything you have going on in the way of learning, academia, skills and personal and professional experience? Try this experiment:

Step One

  1. List absolutely everything you have ever learned academically including institutions, years, your focus or major etc.
  2. Include additional certification and ongoing education or training.
  3. Include every employer you’ve ever had from the time you were in your teens and possibly baby-sitting for your week’s wages. That means even the bosses you hated and the ones who pink-slipped you. Why? You can list what you learned from the situation and even from that boss.
  4. Your hobbies, interests, talents, involvement in sports or theatre and so on.
  5. Add samples of your work and start creating a work portfolio.
  6. Scan diplomas, certificates, artwork, news articles, and anything else to do with you or that was done by you for your portfolio.
  7. Scan references, thank you letters that are related to both your work tasks and personal involvement so long as its appropriate.
  8. Volunteer work.
  9. Transferable skills.
  10. Anything else personal and/or professional is fair game.

Clearly this isn’t going out to any HR Manager under the sun. This is for your eyes only Girlfriend and it’s a fabulous resume toolkit when you’re stumped about how to describe awesome you when you’re going after a job you really want. If you take the time to sit in quiet and write out your all inclusive resume you will likely be astounded by how many positives you have to put in there. Then after you’ve done that include your family and BFF to add more information, including your attitude, times you have helped other people just because, your point of view on the world, things that you are impassioned about. These things matter.  Why?

Employers in all spheres, non-profit, corporate and public want people who have significant experience in their industries and they want people who are passionate about their work, not just looking for a job. Understandable. People who simply want a job get bored soon after they are hired. They aren’t creative or enthusiastic. They don’t look for projects or inititate anything useful to their employer. People who simply want a job take that job for granted and live for the weekend. People with jobs as opposed to careers show up, do their exact work within their precise job description and clock out at the end of the day, happy to have the evening to go home and veg in front of the television set.  They can take or leave their current employer. Those are people with jobs and without passion for what they do.

Girlfriend that is not you. You are a career-driven, cosmopolitan girl and you need to make sure your resume stands out from the crowd as much as you do.  By listing every unique aspect of you and your life both personally and professionally, as well as creating a work portfolio you have some serious leverage to start including into your portfolio. Of course you know that once you have gathered as much You information as you can that is only the first step in building your resume toolkit. Now you’re ready for:

 Step Two

Pick and choose what you need for the position you are currently interested in. Either you have found it on a job board, heard it from the grapevine or even been referred for it (awesome). Make a table or a chart if you like. List all of the qualifications required for that position on one side and your qualifications (no matter how far back in your personal history you demonstrated them) on the other. Do the same with the skills required for the position and all responsibilities. I can guarantee you if you’re drawn time and again to a specific job position you are going to have a plethora of matching qualifications and skills

Add additional skills and qualifications underneath the same category. For instance if the job calls for logistics management skills you will list all of your independent and managerial logistics experience and skills. You don’t have to just match one line for one line. 

Step Three

Time to bring up your qualifications and work history to as current a time period as you can. If the majority of your experiences and skills were developed earlier in your history but they are precise and relevant, leave them in. Anything that is not current and not as job specific, remove it. Once you’ve completed this step it’s time for:

Step Four

Have a friend look it over for you and see if you have included enough relevant material from your resume toolkit yet not an overwhelming amount. Be sure that any personal information you have added is strictly relevant to the industry, organization or job position. For instance if you are applying to a non-profit organization that works with volunteers you should include volunteer experience even if it isn’t the same type of volunteer experience your prospective employer offers. Why? Because you are demonstrating a passion for the industry and an understanding of the organization’s perspective. 

Part Five

Selecting pieces for your work portfolio is the final step in tailoring your brand new resume with the use of your resume toolkit. You may not need to include a work portfolio, sometimes it isn’t called for. Fine. But anyone in the sports and entertainment, fashion or modelling industry for instance should have a portfolio even if it only includes news articles boasting their achievements

It takes a lot of work to build a resume toolkit and a work portfolio but then again anything about you is bound to be time-consuming, introspective and more than worthwhile. You go Girlfriend!