Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

When searching for a job, what’s in a name?

I recently heard about a new process in Canada’s federal government that will help reduce bias around who is contacted following a job application in an interview on Toronto’s Metro Morning.

Six federal departments are piloting a blind recruitment strategy with the goal of increasing equity and diversity in its workforce. This process will remove any identifying information like names and educational institutions from resumes and job applications.

Research on bias in the hiring process reveals the reason behind this project. A research report compiled by Ryerson University and the University of Toronto,  by Dr. Rupa Banerjee, an associate professor at Ryerson’s Ted Rogers School of Management, uncovered the extent to which these biases impact hiring decisions.

Dr. Banerjee reported that the study found that people with Asian-sounding names (such as Lei Xi or Hina Chaudhry) and Canadian education and work experience receive 42 per cent less call backs than people with Anglo-sounding names (like Greg Johnson or Emily Brown) and the same Canadian education and work experience.

While I was listening to the interview, I was curious about if researchers had pinpointed why some of the reasons why such biases exist. Dr. Banerjee explained that implicit bias enables people to make quick decisions (it’s important to note that she mentioned that biases don’t necessarily make someone racist). For example, in the study, bias might have impacted hiring managers’ assumptions around a candidate with an Asian-sounding name’s mastery of the English language and ability to assimilate with a workplace’s culture. In reality, we know these things aren’t necessarily linked.

The results of the Government of Canada’s pilot project will provide a recent, Canadian case study on a blind hiring strategy works. Ideally, the makeup of the staff in the six departments will become more diverse as the project goes on. Roles will be filled with the best possible candidates, no matter their names or backgrounds.

If this pilot is successful, I would hope that the practice of blind hiring will spill over to other federal government departments, levels of government, and even the private sector. This would result in the job application process being more fair and equitable for everyone.

What are your thoughts on this blind hiring pilot project?

Image credit: Besttemplates.com.

Should I start my career with an internship?

Last week, Bank of Canada head honcho Stephen Poloz recommended that unemployed young Canadians should take on unpaid internships to gain experience in their professional fields. The fact that top government officials accept that unpaid work is the only way to get ahead indicates that internships have become commonplace in today’s economy. Further, the competition to actually get an internship – paid or unpaid – is fierce.

Therefore, it doesn’t seem like internships will be going away anytime soon. From the job hunter’s perspective, an internship, paid or unpaid, is a means to an end. The ultimate goal of an internship is to put you in a more competitive position as you launch your career.

I had two internships in the early days of my career, both of which were paid or associated with an educational program. Although I was not paid great sums by any means, I had the benefit of living at home and also was a part-time server to help balance the books.

I’m of two minds when it comes to internships. First, I know from experience that taking on an intern role is one of the best ways to get a start in your career. Internships can provide key benefits. For me, they were:

  • I cut my teeth in a nine-to-five office environment and began to cultivate my professional identity
  • With broad exposure to different communications activities, I learned in leaps and bounds about marketing, public relations and advertising, and also determined what I liked to do
  • I made connections with smart and successful people, many of whom I still have relationships with today
  • I learned how to work with senior leadership and executives, including VPs and presidents

At the same time, it can be difficult to take on full-time work with no or little pay. Some ways to make an internship realistic include the following:

  • Plan ahead – To help save money before taking on an internship, I first took on full-time work outside of my career field so that I could squirrel away some savings.
  • Academic internships – An internship associated with an academic program can help you apply what’s learned in university or college. Your school may also help you find the internship, giving you a competitive edge in the job hunt.
  • Working part-time – Consider a combination of paid and unpaid roles while completing an internship. For example, being a server in the evenings or on weekends helped to supplement my income.

Do you have any other tips for making an internship role realistic? Share in the comments.

Image credit: Pixabay.com.

Setting SMART goals

goal-1955252_1920I’m in the process of writing my professional goals for the next year at work. So, it’s a good time to focus on some best practices for goal-setting. Rather than just shooting blindly for the stars, I’m going to set SMART goals so I can prove I’ve reached them during my annual review.

What are SMART goals? Each goal is written to include the following five elements. The first letter of each spells out the acronym “SMART.” SMART goals are:

Specific – They identity who, what, when, where and why. What exactly do I need, or want, to do?

Measurable – A SMART goal can be quantified in some way. Without metrics, I won’t be able to know if I’ve achieved a goal, or how far I need to go to get there.

Attainable – The end result needs to be attainable based on my skills and experience.

Realistic – I must be honest with myself about what I can achieve, considering my workload, upcoming projects and available time, and set goals that are realistic given these constraints.

Time-bound – A SMART goal has dates associated with key milestones and a final deadline for when it will be achieved. I’ll need to revisit the timeline periodically to make sure I’m on track, or if a variance from the original dates is required (and justified).

Using the SMART technique also works for personal goals.

Do you have any other tips for goal-setting? Please share in the comments.

Image credit: Pixabay.com.

Workday walks are a productivity game-changer. Here’s why.

Short walks during the workday are mentally refreshing and help me focus on my work. I try to pencil one into my calendar whenever I can, so much so that my healthy habit is known among my colleagues. I often can get a colleague or two to join me on a walk, which is good for relationship-building and stress relief.

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Today I came across an article reporting on research on exercise and its impact on well-being. A key finding is that the first 20 minutes of exercise can have a great impact on both happiness and productivity. These are both key ingredients to a successful day at work.

“The first 20 minutes of moving around, if someone has been really sedentary, provide most of the health benefits. You get prolonged life, reduced disease risk — all of those things come in in the first 20 minutes of being active.”

– New York Times best-selling author Gretchen Reynolds, The First 20 Minutes

The article depicted the immediate impact of getting away from one’s desk for an activity break. The below scans of brain activity (represented by an increase in colours) were reported before and after a 20-minute walk:

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So, although it’s now November and we’re facing chillier temperatures, this information is definitely motivation for me to stay active in the winter.

Do you take walks while you’re working? If not, has this research encouraged you to start?

Image credits: Pixabay.com; Fastcompany.com.

 

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What to wear when driving a Vespa to work

vespaAs the summer is about to come to an end, I’m reflecting on how much I enjoy driving my Vespa to work on a daily basis in the warmer months. I really love it, not only because it’s really fun, but also because it can turn a 25-minute walk into a five-minute drive.

In the past few years of driving my Vespa to the office, I’ve also learned a few tricks to adapt my warm-weather work wear to keep me safe and warm, helping to make driving a scooter realistic. They involve Superman-inspired quick changes that are really easy to incorporate into my routine.

Below are some outfit additions I often make to drive my Vespa to work.

A Leather Jacket

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Driving a Vespa is one of the only reasons I’ll wear a leather jacket in the summer. Although it can be hot and humid during the day (although not this past summer!), the morning and evening temperatures can be quite chilly as I drive to-and-from the office. Combine that with the breeze one always feel while driving, and the warmth of a leather jacket is greatly appreciated.

Sturdy Flats
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Like many Toronto commuters, I like to wear flats or flip flops for the trek to work, and then change into one of the many pairs of heels I keep under my desk for the workday. I like these Michael Kors flats for my scooting commute because they have a sturdy rubber heel, which is perfect for gripping the ground when stopping. Depending on the style and colour, flats can also go from the street to the boardroom in a pinch.

A Backpack

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As a professional who tries to keep it sophisticated when I’m going to work, a backpack isn’t something I wear everyday, but it can be handy when it’s needed! My Vespa has storage space under the seat that conveniently fits my purse. If I have to bring a laptop, heels, books or lunch to work, it’s great to have a backpack available too. The above Mountain Equipment CO-OP backpack is a great example because it’s light and can be folded quite compactly, so if I’m not carrying anything in it on the way home it can be tucked into the under-the-seat storage space.

Leggings

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In the summer, I often wear dresses and skirts to the office. A quick way to make these outfit choices work while driving a Vespa is to have a pair of simple leggings handy. Wearing them under a dress allows me to move freely as I’m driving because I’m not worried about making sure my dress stays down, which can be really distracting and therefore dangerous. Leggings are also compact enough to be tossed in my purse after changing when I get to the office.

In conclusion, driving a Vespa to work is totally possible for professionals!

By incorporating these minor outfit additions into my work wear, I’ve made driving a Vespa to work realistic. I avoid major outfit changes, making the commute process simple, short and sweet.

As a side note, these outfit hacks would work well for driving a motorcycle or riding a bicycle as well!

What other clothing suggestions do you have for riding a Vespa to work? Share in the comments.

Image credits: Laine Jaremey; Mackage.com; MichaelKors.com; MEC.ca; Lululemon.com.

Tips for working from home

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Working remotely or from home can be a big perk of a job.  In an earlier post, I shared some benefits of working from home from Minute MBA. I’ve also been fortunate enough to work from home in my professional role, which has been awesome in terms of work-life balance.

Whether you’re in a role that lets you work from home occasionally like me, or if you’re telecommuting from the home base 100 per cent of the time, there are a lot of ways to make sure you’re being as efficient as possible getting work done while you’re away from the office.

I’ve definitely developed my skills and abilities in terms of working from home. In university, I struggled to get homework or assignments done at home. I often lost focus and was continually tempted to step away from my work by endless distractions, including cleaning, walking the dog or watching daytime TV, and it was challenging to stay on track.

Over the years, I’ve become much more focused and efficient when working from home, and have found that the following tips have really helped:

  1. Plan your workday – Having the self-discipline map to your day, including laying out tasks and deadlines, along with meetings and calls, can really help you can stay on track. A daily and weekly to-do list helps to put immediate and medium-term deadlines in perspective. There is no better feeling than crossing something off your to-do list!
  2. Now, plan your non-workday – Working at home provides all the comforts of, well, home. If need to take the dog for a short walk at noon, or pick up your dry cleaning by 4:00, pencil it into your schedule. Use your judgment, but as long as you don’t have an important call, deadline or deliverable, you can try to work your day around these “wants” or “needs”. Remember to block-off time in your calendar so others know you’re unavailable, and advise team members you won’t be at your computer at a certain time.
  3. Improve communication with your team – I’ve learned that being clear and concise in emails is even more important when you can’t just pop over to someone’s desk to ask a quick question face-to-face. Make sure action items, responsibility owners and deadlines are spelled out clearly – bullets and lots of white space help! Picking up the phone and having a brief chat (gasp!) is another way to get to the bottom of a question or to discuss next steps.
  4. Pick your environment based on your work – Different settings can inspire me to be more creative, efficient or analytical. For example, quiet places are better for working on budgets or complex problems. When brainstorming creative ideas, a coffee shop or a restaurant may help yield more exciting results. If you’re writing a report, a serene setting like the couch or a chair on a dock at a lake (pictured above) could be appropriate. Being conscious of the impact of my surroundings on my productivity has allowed me to love working out of the office.

Do you ever work remotely? What tips do you have for staying focused and productive?

Image credit: Laine Jaremey.

Digging up the truth about bringing dogs to work

dogsatworkHaving dogs at work can have a positive impact on a workplace’s culture. If a dog-friendly office is a good fit, it can be a great way to bring people together, reduce stress and add some fun to the everyday routine.

Check out this recent article from the Huffington Post, which highlights some research on the benefits of having pooches in the office.

As a fan of dog-friendly offices, I’ve been fortunate enough to bring my Jack Russell, Junior, to work with me on Fridays for the past few years.

If you’re a dog owner who’s thinking of bringing your pet to work with you, here are a few things to consider first, which I’ve learned in my experience as an owner of an office pooch:

  • Schedule some time to care for your pup – It’s great to go for walks throughout the day and to chat with others about your dog. Just make sure you plan ahead to fit these things into your day. Try scheduling walks in your calendar so your team knows when you’re unavailable, bring your smartphone with you on walks so that you can be reached, prepare water and treats ahead of time and be conscious of how much time you spend with colleagues gushing over how adorable your pet is.
  • If you’re under the gun, dogs are no fun – Have a busy day planned, with a lot of meetings, projects and deadlines? It may not be best to bring your dog with you, since your focus should be 100 per cent on your work. Even well-behaved dogs can be somewhat distracting.
  • Keep Fido on a leash – Not everyone is a fan of dogs at work. Some people are afraid of dogs – even small dogs. Offices are also exciting places for dogs to explore, with lots of nooks and crannies and new smells to investigate. Therefore, I always try to keep Junior under my control when he’s at work with me. I keep him on a leash, and even if I need to run down to the printer for a minute, I like to have him fastened to something so he can’t wander off on his own adventure.
  • Find a dog-sitter – You may have a slow day planned, but that can all change and then having your dog with you may not be very convenient. For example, if a client ask for a last-minute conference call and it may not be appropriate to have your pup barking in the background. Therefore, It’s super helpful to have one or two coworkers who can watch your dog for an hour. It’s usually best if this person is familiar with taking care of dogs, and who your pet knows and trusts. You’ll probably find that people volunteer to dog-sit, which always helps!

  • Silence is golden – Your dog should be calm and quiet throughout the day so as not to disturb you and your coworkers. You may not know how your dog reacts to being in your office until he or she is there a few times. Over time, I’ve learned a few tricks to keep Junior calm, quiet and ideally asleep.  He has a nice pillow to lie on, wears a dog sweater and often chews on a bone. He also tends to be calm and tired if the weather’s nice and he’s had several walks throughout the day. It make take some trial-and-error, but you’ll learn what works for your pup too.
  • Use your judgment – Depending on the workplace or industry, it may not always be appropriate to bring your four-legged friend to work with you. Also, if a client or someone on the company’s leadership team is visiting your office, it’s probably best if you leave your dog at home that day.

Have you brought your dog to work with you?

What tips do you have for helping your pooch get used to the office environment?

Image credits: Laine Jaremey.