One Month Done

It has flown past but I’ve been on the job for a month now. After a rough first couple of weeks of 12 hour days, I think I’m getting the hang of it. And now the team is expanded to three people so the workload will be a little more evenly distributed.

There is still a ton of things I don’t understand but that will, I hope, come with time. And I really need to adjust my working style. I’m really content to sit in my office and produce analysis but for this job to work, it’s really about the face to face meetings and selling the partners and associates on what I’m doing. So suddenly I need to become more social and start working on relationships. This isn’t my strong suit but when in doubt, I can always act like it is.

I was in Toronto this week to finally meet my boss and other co-workers. He works in Calgary. Our mutual boss works in Toronto, as does my counterpart. Prior to that I’ve only spoken to him on the phone and in videoconferences. One thing I’ve gotten used to is that, now that I’m 45, my bosses are just going to be younger than me unless I suddenly start moving up the ranks but that’s never been my career goal.

As we were waiting to leave in the Porter lounger at Billy Bishop Airport, a colleague from the Montreal office asked me, “As tu remarqué que les gens de Toronto sont vraiment ‘into customer service.?’ C’est comme, ‘Just give me my double espresso. You’re too happy for six-thirty in the morning.'”

Now that I’m back in a job, and a rather demanding one at that, it’s important to use the downtime well. Tomorrow we’re going to see Les Géants downtown and camping trips are planned for the summer. I may not get a summer vacation this year but I’ll need to make sure I’m spending time with friends and family and getting to the gym when I can.

 

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Things I Saw This Week April 14

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In the late 90s, before the days of torrents, Netflix, and YouTube, if you wanted to watch something that wasn’t available in your country, you had to rely on an underground network of people willing to tape it onto VHS and pass it around. That’s how I discovered Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Now it’s back and perfectly accessible on Netflix with a new cast but the same concept: a man in a jumpsuit is forced by mad scientists to watch bad movies with his robot friends and hilarity ensues. Now that I’m not a university student who runs on irony, we’ll see if the appeal is the same.

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This week, the Trudeau government unveiled plans to legalize pot by July 1st of 2018. It seems ambitious to meet that date, especially as it will be up to the provinces to figure out how to enforce the laws. But most Canadians are on board and few politicians on the opposition side seem willing to go against the proposed law. I worry that once it’s in place, those who do indulge will go so over the top with it that Canada will just smell like one big summer music festival for a year or two until everyone calms down.

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Because bombing always, always works President Trump dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb on ISIS targets in Afghanistan this week. The weapon used is called the “Mother of All Bombs,” or the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast. And now terrorism is over forever. The end.

Russia has a bigger one which they call the “Father of All Bombs” because #masculinitysofragile.

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coe

I’m currently reading the latest Cormoran Strike novel, Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling). I’m a late arrival to the detective genre. Perhaps because I find the subject matter too gruesome, I’ve just avoided it. Rowling doesn’t avoid the gore here but it’s handled well and she doesn’t revel in it. The books are character-driven and well-plotted enough to keep me coming back.

8th

Last summer I read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I’m not one for self-help books or management books and I heard the author was a devout Mormon. I had this idea that the book was some kind of lesson in financial success while being a good Christian. It’s nothing of the kind, of course. He does, from time to time, touch on his faith but really, it’s about being an honest, principled person. The 8th Habit is a follow up for the contemporary age.

 

aftermath

Because I want something light to read on the train to my new job downtown.

Yes! I’m burying the lede but I’ll be starting a new job on April 24. It’s for a law firm. It’s a manager role in an emerging field. I haven’t updated my LinkedIn or said anything on Facebook yet. I’m waiting until I’m actually in the office and they haven’t decided they’ve made some terrible mistake.

But I’m working again! Hooray!

Job Update

As Mr. Richard Ross once declared, everyday I’m hustlin’. While Mr. Ross’ song was about expanding his cocaine dealing network, my hustlin’ is more modest in that I’m just trying to get someone to hire me.

This month I’ve had a few interviews, all of which have been very positive but with varying degrees of follow up from the employers. I used to simply wait for HR to confirm if I had the job or not. However, an employment counsellor once said to me, “Did your previous employer ask your permission to cut your job? No. So don’t ask someone’s permission to inquire if you got the job you’re applying for. Just call or email them.”

There are a couple of options on the table, depending which, if any of the jobs I get. One of which would be to return to Saint John (this has a whole list of pros and cons) and the other is to stay in Montreal but most likely work in the city.

Three weeks ago I had an interview for what I’d call “the fun job,” which is at a major brewer. It went pretty well. My French was shaky but not disastrous. But despite a recent assurance from the HR rep the job has not been filled yet, it seems the process is taking a long time.

Last week, someone I met a networking event for Olds Without Work mentioned my name to her new employer. They were hiring someone with my skills so I sent my CV and ended up having two very positive interviews within the space of a week. It’s for a big law firm and in an emerging field where my experience would be put to an interesting use.

It highlighted to me the importance of networking. I’ve always bristled at the practice because it always seemed as though I would be just connecting with people who could do something for me. I don’t like the idea of forging relationships which are just transactional in nature. But in reality, it’s more than that. It’s about building a social network that is going to help you in your career, even if it’s just putting you in touch with the right people. And if your company needs someone with specific skills, you may be able to call on someone from your own network so it’s mutually beneficial to build and maintain these relationships, provided the intent behind them is always genuine and based on good, solid principles.

Yes, I even had business cards made up.

tenor

So I’m getting pretty good at searching jobs now.

But I’d really like to get good at landing and keeping them.

Of Teachers We Knew

An old friend of mine recently uploaded this video to YouTube. It’s my Grade 7 teacher at the age of 16, lip-syncing to Etta James’s “Stop the Wedding” on our local TV station’s Saturday afternoon hit music show.

She had a big impact on the lives of those of us she taught. My friend and I started a school paper at her urging. He went on to become the founder of a literary journal and magazine editor whereas I went on to other things. But she was the one who told us to find a passion and run with it.

She often went off the prescribed coursework and often told us of the real history of Canada and the US in that she made sure we were aware of slavery. She had a YA novelist come in to read from her book about the Underground Railroad. Every day began with 15 minutes of self-directed reading. She saw I was reading, at 12, George Orwell’s 1984. She encouraged me to keep reading it, even if I honestly didn’t get all of it.

I have increasingly vague memories of a lot of the teachers from those days but the memories of her have always remained sharp.

She passed away in 2011.

The New Not Normal

 

I’m spending this month in a series of group counselling sessions for management people past forty who are “in career transition,” as the euphemism goes. In general, it’s been pretty helpful. I’m terrible at networking and cold calling so it’s helping me with that. They say 80% of jobs out there are not advertised so networking is how you get them.

But an interesting thing happened yesterday. We’re in the suburbs of Montreal and as a group, I’d say about 30% of us are immigrants. If I was in the city’s core, I imagine that percentage would be higher.

One participant made a comment, beginning with “When I came to this country…” and when he finished the moderator said (I’m paraphrasing because it was in French, mostly):

“OK, here’s a thing. On Friday, in the United States, they are going to inaugurate an IDIOT. Because of this, on both sides of the border, and I’ve lived in Boston and Montreal, there are bigots who think it’s now ok to discriminate against immigrants. You may want to focus on your experience and education and not your background. When you’re talking about your background to an employer, just say I have a PhD. Or, I worked for Coca-Cola. You don’t have to say my PhD is from Spain or I worked for Coke in Colombia. That can come later when they find out how really great you are.”

Now, this moderator was an older guy so maybe he was erring on the side of abundant caution but it surprised me that he suggested that. Last year, Canada welcomed 25,000 refugees and only the most conservative of our politicians suggest heavy restrictions on immigration. But perhaps he has good reasons for suggesting it. Canada is not immune to this kind of dog-whistle, anti-immigration rhetoric and some of our own politicians are taking a page out of Trump’s book.

It’s a frightening and sad thing to imagine something as banal as employment counselling can be poisoned by this new political atmosphere.

On the Language of Business

As a Quebec anglophone, I am what is known as bilingual*. I can read, write (with assistance), and understand what is being said in person or on TV or radio.

The * comes in when it comes to speaking. I am incredibly shy about speaking in French knowing that the French in my head sounds a lot better than what comes out of my mouth. So, afraid that I’ll make mistakes, I speak quickly and nervously and because I speak quickly and nervously, I make mistakes. If I slow down and think about what I need to say, I do better.

This makes job hunting in Montreal a bit of a challenge. Montreal has plenty of companies that operate officially in English. I worked 19 years for a company that did its business in English. But others are French only or bilingual. And that’s natural. This is, after all, Quebec. You know you can do the job you’re applying for but if you can’t communicate through the selection process, and knowing you’re up against people who speak four or five languages effortlessly, you’re going to be a disadvantage in a major way.

I have a phone interview in French on Wednesday. I can do things to prepare, like write down some anticipated responses in French (phone interviews are great that way – they’re like an open book test) but my spoken French really needs to improve. There are things I can do to help with that: MeetUp groups that specialize in French conversation, etc. But until I get it up to a better standard, I’m always going to find myself at a disadvantage.

It’s the reality of employment. You always need to upgrade your skills and learn new ones if you want to stay relevant.

Clearly, I have some room for improvement.

But at least I’m not Wayne Gretzky.

By Christmas?

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried. When I was downsized in March, I got a number of phone calls from recruiters fairly quickly and I assumed I’d be working again by summer. Then I thought, when that didn’t happen, I’d be working by fall. Then everyone assured me I’d be working by Christmas.

But right now, I can’t give it away. I’m still living off a severance package and all is well in that department but eventually, I’m going to need something. I got an email from a company specializing in debt restructuring asking if I was interested in a position with them. Calling people to arrange debt repayments sounds positively depressing but, well, I’m going to have to do something, aren’t I?

I’m reminded of the song by Payola$, “Christmas is Coming” written during an economic depression in the early 80s and it even mentions going on Unemployment Insurance, as it was known back then.

Been down to the UI
and nothing but queues
Been down on my welfare
with holes in my shoes
the kitchen’s still leaking
with floods on the floor
the landlord will fix it
he only wants more
Christmas is coming it’s been a long year

I suppose as the new fiscal year begins, companies may have more positions available.

On the other hand, there is a child-man in the White House with his finger on the button and we’re all going to die so it won’t matter! Wheeee! I’m trying not to be fatalistic. I really am.

Anyway, we’re spending tomorrow night in Ottawa to visit some friends and family and see the lights on Parliament Hill. Our invitation to visit Justin and Sophie at Harrington Lake must have been lost in the mail so we’ll be at a Travelodge. And we’re eating at a Chinese restaurant. Because somehow, every holiday season, Chinese food is consumed somewhere along the line.

I hope you and your loved ones have a nice Christmas, Hanukkah, or just a relaxing holiday break.

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