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

3 things not to say in a job interview

Picture yourself at a job interview.

You might be seated across from a hiring manager in a boardroom, or sitting with your potential new boss in their office. You’re wearing your favourite job-interview appropriate outfit. You’ve prepared for the interview based on tips from recruiters. You answer the interviewer’s questions and clearly, concisely and convincingly share information about yourself, your capabilities and accomplishments. You convey why you’d be an awesome fit for both the role and the organization.

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

However, there might be a few things that you want to know about the job, or that are motivating you to apply for it, which you should keep to yourself. Otherwise, you could risk tarnishing your image with the interviewer, or risk your likelihood of being hired.

Here are three things to never ask about or say in a job interview:

  1. Don’t say the job you’re interviewing for is a stepping stone to another job. Think about if you were dating someone and they told you they were waiting for someone better to come along – you’d feel pretty bad. That’s how a potential employer would take it too.
  2. Don’t complain about your past employer. It can indicate that you’re immature or unable to build professional relationships.
  3. Don’t ask about vacation time. You may seem like you’re already eager to step away from the role and your responsibilities. You’ll learn about (and maybe even be able to negotiate) vacation time if you receive a job offer.

Can you think of any other things to avoid saying in an interview? Share in the comments.

Image credits: Pixabay.com.

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

Job recruiters share how to get hired

If you have a job interview coming up, you probably want to make the most of your face time with the company. Whether you’re working with a third-party recruiter or an in-house hiring manager, these nine tips from recruiters, compiled in a video by Buzzfeed, can help you prepare for your interview. Scroll down to the bottom of this post to watch the full video!Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine JaremeyTip 1: Don’t lie
In an interview, people might say that they’ve worked at a company when they haven’t, or that they have a degree when they don’t, thinking it will give them a competitive edge in the hiring process. If the recruiter, hiring manager or the company’s pre-employment screening department are thorough, it’s likely that the truth will be revealed. Depending on when that happens, you may not get a second interview, or a job offer can be rescinded. The worst part of that scenario? You’d never know if you would have been successful with the company had you just told the truth.

Tip 2: Nail your resume
What are recruiters’ top tips for a great resume? They include:

  • A resume shouldn’t be longer than two pages (or one page double-sided)
  • Highlight the things you’re most proud of first, then list your work experience
  • Avoid using unprofessional fonts like Comic Sans or symbols like Wingdings
  • Only include information that’s relevant to the position, without oversimplifying too much

Tip 3: Do your research
Find out about the company and the role that you’re applying for. Learn as much as you can by visiting the company’s website and social media channels, look them up on Glassdoor, or have an informational interview with a current or former employee. Know what about the company makes you want to work there. Bring print-outs of your findings (like a recent press release) to an interview to demonstrate that you did research and understand the company.

Tip 4: Don’t come in sick
If you have a communicable disease, like pink eye, a cold or the flu, be honest about it with the recruiter, hiring manager, or other person who arranged the interview. Be as flexible as you can about rescheduling it.

Tip 5: Dress appropriately
Do research on the company’s dress code as you prepare your outfit for your interview. Then, dress one “notch” above it. For example, one recruiter described his office as “business comfortable” and would want a candidate to demonstrate that they fit into the dress code. Depending on the industry you’re in, wearing a three-piece suit to an interview may not be appropriate. Find more tips about dressing for a job interview here.

Tip 6: Know your greatest weakness
This question can indicate how honest and self-aware you are. Recruiters or hiring managers can generally tell if you’re being genuine. When sharing an actual weakness that you want to work on, be sure to follow it up with how and why.

Tip 7: Know when to negotiate
Be transparent about your salary expectations from the beginning so that both you and the recruiter or hiring manager can find a salary level that all parties are happy with. However, be aware of the salary band for the role you’re applying for. It’s unlikely that a company can exceed the band’s upper and lower limits.

Tip 8: Ask questions
Have at least three questions to ask the recruiter or hiring manager at the end of the interview. Where do you start? The following questions are helpful because the responses can serve as a “cheat sheet” for what to do in the first three months on the job if you get it.

  • What can I do in the first three months to be successful?
  • What do the first 30 to 90 days look like in this job?
  • How can I immediately add value in this role?

Tip 9: Keep calm and carry on
Sometimes a person who isn’t hired may overstep when engaging with the recruiter or hiring manger after getting the bad news. Requesting a Linkedin connection is fine, but following and messaging them on other social media channels or showing up at their office won’t be well-received. If an opportunity doesn’t work out, stay calm and professional. The recruiter may end up having another job that’s a better fit down the road.

Do you agree with these job recruiters’ tips? Share in the comments.

Image credits: Pixabay.com; Buzzfeed.com.

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

Science communication 101

My professional role is Communications Specialist at CCRM, which is a Toronto-based leader in the commercialization of regenerative medicine technologies, and cell and gene therapies. Part of my role involves learning about the science and innovations that happen in the lab and translating them to the public. This practice is known as science communication.

The craft of science communication is becoming more common as researchers, engineers and others working in science increasingly want to make the public aware of their research and results through social media, media interviews (which lead to articles in print or online media, or segments on TV or radio news broadcasts), in videos, at exhibitions and in presentations. Although science communication falls within the larger domain of communication, there are specific nuances and approaches that science communicators must be aware of to be successful. Canadian universities even offer courses on science communication so that people can start to master the practice early on in their careers.

By examining the transferrable skills I’ve gained as a public relations (PR) strategist working in an agency setting in past roles, I understand how these skills can be applied to supporting folks in the science community as they delve into science communication. Although experts know the facts and figures behind their projects and results, a communications specialist like myself can successfully translate this information to public audiences who are interested in science, but may not share the same technical prowess.

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

If you’re a communications professional who is providing counsel to a science communicator, I have a few tips for you to pass along. The advice noted below comes from posts that I’ve composed as a guest blogger on Signals Blog, which provides an insider’s perspective on the world of stem cells and regenerative medicine, and is managed and edited by CCRM.

Tip 1: Hone your message for media – Sharing messages with media has the potential to increase their reach and credibility. However, scientists must adapt their messages to ensure that media can easily understand and effectively incorporate them into an article or broadcast. How? Cut the jargon, get to the news early in the pitch, and tailor messages to resonate with the audience. Learn more about these techniques here.

Tip 2: Incorporate storytelling principles – Good communication is essentially storytelling. When crafting messages to report on scientific research or a new discovery, using the six elements of a great story can lead to more compelling messages. The six elements to add are a hook to pique the audience’s interest, characters to captivate the audience, the right setting, small details that convey implicit messages, inside information in layman’s terms (see cutting the jargon, above!), and surprise to drive engagement.

Tip 3: Pick the right channel – The communications channel you use can depend on what’s being communicated or who the target audience is. It might take a bit of creativity to think of how a non-expert would best absorb the material. For example, exhibitions, like the ones at the Ontario Science Centre, are good ways to engage children and youth. A Facebook Live broadcast, like this one that I helped produce at CCRM that shares an engineer’s work and career path, can engage social media-savvy adults.

What if you encounter someone who’s skeptical that science communication even matters? Let them know that in some cases, effectively sharing research results and their implications can be a life-or-death scenario. If you think I’m just being dramatic, watch the below video that explains some science communication fails from history, and their ramifications for the public’s health and well-being.

What other science communication tips do you have? Share in the comments.

Image credits: Pixabay.com.

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

Tips for turning a hobby into a side hustle

Results of a 2017 study revealed that 44 million Americans take on extra work to make extra cash, in addition to working full-time. This is generally known as having a “side hustle.” The study identified millennials as the largest group of side-hustlers.

What are some of the most common side hustles? U.S.-based research tells us that doing the following activities allow people to earn cash on the side.

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

That said, what differentiates a side hustle from a part-time job?

While discussing his book Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days, author Chris Guillebeau clarifies what makes a side hustle unique: striving for financial independence.

“A side hustle is not a part-time job. A side hustle is not the gig economy. It is an asset that works for you. Picking up a few extra hours at the factory or at the coffeehouse is not a side hustle. Jumping on TaskRabbit or Uber when you feel like it isn’t a side hustle, either. The problem? Someone else can pull the plug. Gig economy businesses have literally folded overnight. If the intention of a side hustle is to create financial independence, then working within the gig economy is a walk in the exact opposite direction.” – Chris Guillebeau

Now that we’re on the same page about what a side hustle is, let’s tackle how to do it well. The secret is to figure out how to turn something that you love doing, like a hobby, into paid work that you can do on your own terms.

Why a hobby? According to Mark Zuckerberg, having a hobby outside of work is one of the best ways to cultivate your passion, leadership skills and technical abilities. Having a hobby is considered so important by Zuckerberg that Facebook’s hiring managers ask job candidates about their hobbies during interviews. What was Zuckerberg’s personal hobby? Last year, he figured out how to build an artificial intelligence (AI) system to control his home.

It’s easy to see how mastery of this task could result gaining a skill set that a person could monetize into a side hustle by offering a service that makes other people’s homes AI-friendly. (On a side note, you could also apply the knowledge gained from the experience to your full-time role for a potential career boost if it’s relevant to your job.)

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

But, before you get started with your own side hustle, check out my five tips below for transforming a hobby into extra cash:

Tip 1: Follow your passion – By turning a hobby that you were formerly doing for free into something that’s paid, there’s a better chance that you’ll love spending your non-9-to-5 time doing the work.

 Tip 2: Use skills you already have – Understand your existing strengths and think about what people would pay for. Can you repair smartphone screens? Do you have a passion for personal training? Are you able to consult as a communications advisor? Any of these services could provide value to customers.

Tip 3: Manage your time – One of the downsides of having a side hustle is the potential for burnout. If the income from your side hustle work supplements the income from a full-time job, don’t jeopardize that full-time role. Find a balance between the two positions. Understand how long each side job will take so that you can over-deliver to your side hustle customers, while ensuring that the time spent on your side hustle doesn’t compromise your performance at your full-time job.

Tip 4: Build your network – How you connect with others to promote your side hustle depends on what product or service you’re offering. If you fix and sell used bicycles, you can connect with local customers on Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace. If you provide a consulting service, you can reach customers through social media channels and word-of-mouth. Get creative about how you reach your customers to get maximum exposure.

Tip 5: Set a goal – Think about why you’re spending your free time on your side hustle. Decide what you want to achieve early in the process. Whether it’s a saving a certain amount of money or completing a specific number of jobs, knowing you’re getting closer to your goal can provide perspective when you’re putting in extra hours every week. Learn about setting SMART goals here.

What other tips do you have for a successful side hustle? Share in the comments.

Image credits: Credit Loan; Pixabay.com; Laine Jaremey.

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

How can I earn PMP PDUs for free?

Professional development is critical part of everyone’s career, no matter what industry they’re in. Opportunities for professional development have been shown to benefit companies, and have been ranked as more important than pay for millennials.

For people with certain professional designations, the completion of professional development activities is not only helpful, but it’s also necessary to maintain the designation.

Since obtaining the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification in February (and proudly crossed off one of my professional goals for 2018, which I shared in a post from earlier this year), I’ve started to complete the mandatory project management professional development units (PDUs). Completing PDUs allows PMPs to stay relevant as the professional evolves and as needs of employers grow and change. PDUs are educational tools that can come from a variety of in-person, digital and on-demand sources.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine JaremeyThe Project Management Institute (PMI) stipulates that PMPs must complete 60 PDUs every three years to maintain the certification. One hour of training or education equals one PDU. Learn more about the PDU requirements for PMPs at PMI’s website.

One of the things that I noticed when I first started to investigate PDUs is that they can be expensive, which is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s important for PMPs to have high-quality and relevant training, and paying to attend an excellent in-person workshop or online course could provide a lot of value. On the other, completing some PDUs at no cost can reduce the overall financial burden of this requirement. It’s up to the PMP to decide which professional development opportunities are worth paying for, and which free opportunities still provide value.

If you’re a PMP, or considering becoming one, and find the costs associated with earning PDUs daunting, check out my suggestions for earning free PDUs below:

  • Listen to podcasts – Podcasts can be listened to at any time and in any place. I’d recommend the Project Management Podcast. It covers a wide variety of project management-related topics, the episodes range in length but are generally not too long, and the host provides a clear roadmap at the beginning of each episode that outlines its learning outcomes. Projectified is another relevant podcast that’s produced by PMI. A tip: Making notes while listening to a podcast provides proof of participation in case a PDU claim is audited.
  • Read – PMPs can earn PDUs for reading articles, blog posts and books. Picking reading subjects based on the areas for improvement indicated in the PMP exam results, or focusing on a specific area of the PMI Talent Triangle, can allow PMPs to advance where they need to most. This activity is great because one PDU is earned for each hour spent reading, so a lot of PDUs can be banked by the time a book is finished. Where can free reading materials be found? Local libraries are good sources for books. For example, check out some options based on the search results for “strategic project management” at the Toronto Public Library. Or, many blog posts, articles and white papers can be accessed for free. Again, making notes while reading can provide proof to PMI in a PDU audit that the claim is valid.

Woman reading in chair

  • Watch webinars – PMPs can log-in to Projectmanagement.com using their PMI credentials for access to live and on-demand webinars. The webinars can be searched based on the PMI Talent Triangle area, webinar length and other keywords. I’m a big fan of the on-demand webinars because I can access them outside of business hours when it’s most convenient for me, since many live webinars run during the work day.
  • Participate in online symposia – Projectmanagement.com offers full-day virtual symposia throughout the year, which allow PMPs to hear from experts in the field while earning PDUs. For example, I participated in the annual PMXPO in March 2018 (check out the agenda here). This full day of live webinars allowed me to earn 6.5 PDUs, and I had on-demand access to the presentations after the event in case any sessions were missed so that I could earn all of the PDUs being offered. The upcoming PMI Talent and Technology Symposium that takes place on June 13 gives PMPs the opportunity to earn 6 PDUs.
  • Work in the field – Many PMPs are already working as project managers for some portion of their day jobs, so they can get credit for something they’re already doing! PMPs can document and submit descriptions of up to eight hours of project management-related work for up to eight PDUs.
  • Give back – This category of PDUs captures the time spent teaching or mentoring others on project management. It also includes creating or delivering project management-related content, like webinars, presentations, or even blog posts (like this one!), to help further the education of others in the field.

What other free PDUs do you recommend for PMPs? Share your suggestions in the comments.

Photo credits: PMI.org; Pixabay.com.

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

Nine tips for successful informational interviews

Have you ever been on an informational interview?

If you haven’t heard of them before, an informational interview is a meeting with someone who’s already in an organization, field or industry that you’d like to get into, which doesn’t relate directly to a job opening. It’s an opportunity for you to learn, grow your network and get your foot in the door.

Informational interviews can help improve your career prospects. They’re especially helpful when you graduate or if you’re starting out in a new field. In fact, the effectiveness of informational interviews has been described as “engineered nepotism”. Essentially, if you don’t have an existing strong personal connection, an informational interview can have the potential to result in one.

Informational interviews have benefited my career. My first job at a PR agency was the eventual result of an informational interview with a VP there. We were put in touch through connections in our networks, so I didn’t know her personally before the meeting. That said, I diligently prepared for the meeting and it was a success.

That’s why, when a role became available at my level at the agency a month after the informational interview, the person I met with contacted me. She thought I could be a good fit based on what she learned about me in the informational interview. As I had already dipped my toe by meeting with her and learning about the agency, I was immediately engaged. So, we met again to discuss the role and I was interviewed by other senior members of the organization. As a result, the role was a great fit for me, and I was a great fit for the team.

This experience has made me believe in the power of informational interviews. Since, I’ve continued to participate in them, both as interviewer and interviewee. Based on what I’ve learned, I have some tips for acing informational interviews as your start off in your career:

Tip 1: Prepare as you would for a job interview – Would you ever go to a job interview without Googling the company and person you’re meeting with? Informational interviews should be treated the same way. In addition to reviewing the company’s website, check out the social channels of and recent news articles about the company, its leaders, its brands and the person you’re meeting with. Review your contact’s LinkedIn profile and consider connecting with them before or after the meeting. Show you’re really on-the-ball by weaving-in what you learned in your research during your conversation, or even print out and bring an article or two.

informational interview JPEG 3
Tip 2: Determine an objective – Understand what you hope to get out of your informational interview. Keep your objective(s) top-of-mind, and even mention them to the interviewee either before or early in the interview. For example, if you’re emailing the contact in advance, you could say, “I look forward to meeting with you to learn about your career path and the trends and opportunities you see in the industry,” if that’s what your objectives are. This will help the interview subject prepare, and as a result, you’ll get more from the meeting.

Tip 3: Prepare a list of questions – Make a list of questions to address anything you’re curious about – the person’s career path, something you learned when researching their organization, industry trends, their organization’s culture or their organization’s open positions (if they’re not posted online). Write the questions down in your notebook (see point 5, below) or print the list. Refer to them during the interview to demonstrate your preparedness and engagement.

Tip 4: Get ready to share a bit about yourself – Ideally, the interview should focus on the person you’re meeting with. However, it would be helpful for the interviewee to know a bit about you so that they have context when sharing information or advice. Rehearse a summary, also called an “elevator pitch”, about yourself in advance. Make sure it’s short, concise and clear. Learn how to craft an elevator pitch here.

Tip 5: Make notes – Bring a notebook and pen and jot down important things that your interview subject says. Write down questions that arise when they’re speaking and ask them later to avoid interrupting them. Even if you’re a digital record-keeper, writing down notes demonstrates to the speaker that you’re fully engaged. Making notes on a smartphone, tablet or laptop can have the opposite effect. (Still not convinced to write in a notebook? Richard Branson has a compelling pitch for using them!)

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Tip 6: Dress to impress – First impressions count. But, before you put on a tailored suit for an informational interview, keep in mind that in recent years, attire for job interviews and other professional meetings has changed, just as how people dress in the workplace has evolved. A suit is great, but not always necessary (hello, suit separates!). As part of your research, learn about the culture and dress code of the organization and industry of the interview subject to ensure your attire is appropriate. However, even if the organization’s dress code is very causal on a day-to-day basis, you should dress more formally to convey your seriousness and professionalism. Learn more about dressing for a job interview here.

Tip 7: Find an appropriate venue and time – Allow the interview subject to share their preferences for when and where they’d like to meet. Encourage a venue that’s close to their workplace to minimize their time away from work. Your interview subject might suggest a meeting room at their office. Or, coffee shops or casual cafés are usually good bets, but make sure you can get a table at the meeting time; you might even want to arrive early to secure seats. Don’t order drinks or food in advance, and offer to pay if you’re the one who called the meeting (although if you’re a student or if it’s early in your career, the interview subject may politely decline your offer!).

Tip 8: Be mindful of time – Arrive early and ensure the meeting ends on time. This shows that you respect the interview subject’s time, that you’re able to manage time effectively, and that you understand they have other priorities in their schedule.

Tip 9: Send a thank-you note – Express your appreciation after the interview in an email or, better yet, a card sent in the mail. I mean, who sends cards these days? It’s a unique way to stand out. Also, if someone introduced you, take the time to send them a short email to share that the interview occurred and to thank them for the connection.

I’ll finish up with a disclaimer. The result of my informational interview scenario, described above, was ideal for me at that time because I was starting out in my career and looking for a job at the same time a position became available. However, not every informational interview will result in a job offer. And, sometimes, that’s not your objective!

You might not be able to anticipate how participating in an informational interview now can benefit you down the road. Outcomes can include being approached regarding a job opportunity, increasing your technical knowledge, absorbing perspective based on the interview subject’s experience and gaining connections to the interviewee’s network.

What other tips do you have for making the most of an informational interview? Share in the comments below!

Image credits: Pixabay.com.

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

Should I start my career with an internship?

Internships are very topical right now. 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 some key benefits. For me, they were:

  • I learned how to cut it in a nine-to-five job and began to cultivate my professional identity
  • With broad exposure to many different activities, I learned in leaps and bounds about marketing, communications and advertising, and also determined what I did – and didn’t – like to do
  • In these roles I made great connections with smart, professional people, many of whom I’m still connected to today
  • I learned how to work with senior leadership and executives, including VPs and presidents
  • Having internships on my resume demonstrated I was eager to learn, willing to try new things and could take initiative, which bolstered my resume

At the same time, it can be difficult to take on full-time unpaid work. Some ways to make an internship do-able 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 can help supplement your income.

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

Image credit: Pixabay.com.