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.

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

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

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.

2013: The Shatnerian Review

I think like a lot of bloggers, I’m constantly on the cusp of being a former blogger. Social media ultimately serves a more satisfying purpose for link-sharing with limited commentary. I certainly spent a lot of time on Twitter and Tumblr these days and, to a lesser degree, Google+. Facebook is where I share light-hearted PG-rated stuff because my mother reads everything.

But if I want to take a little time and just ramble on for a spell, my blog is always here for me.

So this was 2013.

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January

We rang in 2013 quietly, as has been the habit we’ve acquired this past few years, with curry and beer from the Indian restaurant down the road from our place.

I also interviewed for a job in Saint John. It was one of those remote interview things where I sit in a conference room and talk to people on a TV screen, Star Trek-style. Except Captains Kirk, Picard, Sisko, and Janeway never had to deal with the video feed just cutting out. I didn’t get the position but over the past year, I noticed it kept getting posted and, twice, I was contacted via LinkedIn to see if I was interested in applying. The recruiter didn’t know I had already interviewed.

So I’m not sure who they think they need for the job. I hope they found him or her but somehow I don’t think they have.

February

We took a trip to Saint John in February to visit family and do some old school Maritime candle pin bowling. Seriously, It was like being back in the Maritimes in the 1980’s. I kept expecting Richard Hatfield to walk in and order a bottle of Moosehead Golden Light from the bar where people still smoke indoors.

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Pope Benedict XVI resigned and was replaced by an Argentinian who criticizes trickle down economics. And he was named Time’s Person of the Year.

So that was unexpected. That has pretty much been my reaction to everything he does as pope: “Oh, that was unexpected.”

But I’m not a Catholic, nor a Christian, nor a believer of any kind, really, but I do find these things interesting.

March

The first big concert of the year was Disney Princesses on Ice at the Bell Centre and en français. Hey, the tickets were free, the plastic souvenir sword was stupid pricey and James was afraid of Ursula.

The second big concert of the year wasn’t quite Disney on Ice but it was Sigur Ros.

By the way, that song is this:

In addition to Sigur Ros, I also got excited about some new music again. Frank Turner released his fifth studio album, Tape Deck Heart in March and it took up residence in the car for Spring and Summer.

In less edifying cultural news, Canada got its own version of Big Brother which was like all the other worldwide Big Brothers in that it started with a lot of promise and then you realize there’s no way you’re watching this for three hours a week.

I do know that a woman named Jillian from Nova Scotia won because the person casting the deciding vote messed up.

So that was a first. So..be proud, Canada?

April

Was it a shit winter? Yeah, it was a shit winter. Luckily, we were given a free stay in a small beach condo in Ormond Beach, Florida. So, of course that meant taking the wee lad to Disneyworld.
He didn’t know we were going until we got there, which is odd given that the minute you land in Orlando, you are reminded that the entirety of Central Florida is owned by that mouse.
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It was a last minute, unexpected vacation and I hadn’t been to Florida since 1981 and, really, after four months of winter, it was just nice to go somewhere with palm trees. Even without Disney or hand feeding giraffes at the Brevard County zoo, if I could sit quietly with a drink and look at the Atlantic Ocean, I would have been happy.

But Florida’s a weird state. On one hand it’s all tourist destinations like the theme parks, and the beach bars and Margaritaville and on the other hand, it’s places where you can pawn gold to buy a gun before hiring your “males only” divorce attorney. I avoided turning on the local news.

May

After spending a small fortune in car repairs, the old Corolla was finally retired and replaced with a gently used Mazda 5. I’m not sure how long I’ve lived this long without sliding doors and seats that lay down flat. The stereotype is that middle-aged men have a crisis about their faded youth and run out and get a sports car but a) current family budget does not allow for impulse purchases and b) I’ve always had a thing for practicality.

And that’s pretty much what I was doing in May.

June

In June, I received a beer kit for Father’s Day from the Brooklyn Brew Shop. Kerry thought it would be nice for me to have a hobby and well, I do enjoy the beer from time to time. Beer making is a actually a very relaxing process that requires a lot of patience and attention to detail.

Because this is me we’re talking about, naturally, the bottled beer exploded all over the kitchen. So that experiment failed. But I may want to do it again, perhaps with an easier kit until I know what I’m doing.

July

It has been one year since we got married. To celebrate, we went to the UK for the first time since James spent his first Christmas in Scotland. The main point of the trip was to attend Langholm Common Riding which is basically an old home week for the Borders towns.

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But we also spent some time in London, Somerset (to see Kerry’s childhood home), and Edinburgh.

Seriously, go see Edinburgh. It’s beautiful.

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I also turned 42 in a pub near Paddington station in London where I enjoyed some real ales while Kerry and James were passed out in the hotel around the corner after a full day of walking around Covent Garden and Hyde Park, not to mention the bus tour and boat tour on the Thames. When James started falling asleep face first into his fish n’ chips, we figured we were pushing our luck with an almost five year old. We were also around the corner from where Prince George was to be born but we missed it by three days, fortunately. I think our part of London would have been insane.

I watched the news of the royal birth from a hotel bar in Edinburgh (yes, pubs and bars often feature prominently in our trips to the UK). The Scots weren’t quite as excited by news as the English but it didn’t exactly go uncelebrated either. I did have an interesting discussion about progenitor laws with a gentleman in there. We both noted that Elizabeth is Elizabeth I in Scotland as they never had a Queen Elizabeth before. He bitterly pointed out that the mailboxes are all stamped “ERII,” even in Scotland. Perhaps now that the Royal Mail has been privatized, that policy may change.

August

In August, my sister got married at our family church, followed by a backyard reception at our other sister’s place. My new brother in law is a great guy and I’m very happy for them both.

September

A new chapter in our lives began as our child entered kindergarten. It’s more expensive than daycare, if that’s possible.

Over the past year, we learned our child has a developmental disorder called Dyspraxia which explains a lot. Now that he’s been diagnosed, he’ll be getting some extra help at school. It’s been a challenge and a bit of learning curve but now that we know how to approach it, we’ve already seen improvement.

He also has a renewed interest in Lego now that he can get his fingers to listen to his brain.

Also, Janelle Monáe released The Electric Lady and all was right with the world. It’s like she’s invented her own genre of science-fiction inspired R&B/Hip-Hop. More sci-fi concept albums, I say!

October

The Mazda 5 had its first road test when we drove it from Montreal to Saint John for Thanksgiving. It still astounds me how long it takes just to get off the island of Montreal but when you’re doing it at rush hour, you’re just asking for trouble. We stayed the night in Riviére-du-Loup and saw snow geese flying over the St. Lawrence River. That was pretty much the highlight of the journey. The stretch between Quebec City and Edmundston may just be the dullest in Eastern Canada.

James is obsessed with superheroes. I may have nurtured that a bit. For Halloween, he got a Captain America costume and insisted on wearing it for days before the big day. Which was a good thing because Halloween night itself was kind of a miserable, rainy affair.

November

I interviewed for a new job which would see me moving into an IT-related role. I had two interviews in which I made the decision to be a little more frank than I usually am. That led to a second interview and that led to a third interview.

We’re also looking into moving to Saint John but I think the reality of that is that it will be a much longer plan. The career opportunities just aren’t as plentiful there as they are in larger centres.

For the first time since moving here, I wasn’t able to vote in the Montreal municipal election because I no longer live in Montreal. But Pointe-Claire got a new mayor. For the first time, I voted for the guy who won. It was between Morris Trudeau, a long time councillor and former cop, and businessman with little public service experience. I went with the former.

December

The Christmas season is full-swing at our house. The plastic tree is decorated with James’s homemade ornaments, 2012 Olympics Sydney Crosby, and Captain Kirk. James still believes in Santa Claus, which is nice. This, however, being his first year in school, some kids are trying to convince him the parents do it, like the mysterious American girl in Grade 2 who has no friends and is mean to everyone.

My parents are coming up for Christmas this year for the first time. I’m sure my father will somehow wrangle a trip to Chenoy’s for chopped liver.

Santa came early for us. The old PC and laptops were dying slow deaths (the latter was the result of an apple juice spill from someone who will not be named) so a new PC was ordered. And we got a Smart TV after 10 years of watching the old 27″ tube TV so we’re all technologically advanced these days. We’re running movies off the PC, we got the Netflix and YouTube and I’m getting caught up on movies I’ve been meaning to see.

Best science fiction movie of 2013? Pacific Rim. Hands down. I didn’t expect this much character development in a movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters.

Or maybe Gravity is the best, but I haven’t seen that yet.

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Oh, yes. I also finally saw Star Trek: Into Darkness and Man of Steel because I will always watch Star Trek, even when I hate it (and boy did I hate it) and will always watch comics-to-film adaptations.

I don’t so much hate the new movies (although they are aggressively dumb) so much as what they represent which is a discontinuation of the universe built by the shows and movies up until 2009. I have a long, really nerdy blog post about it but I’ll leave it at that.

Man of Steel seemed almost embarrassed that it was about Superman so they made their title character kind of dick. It was also two hours of this:
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I’ve been a member of the NDP for the past couple of years but lately I’ve been thinking about giving up the membership and going unaffiliated again. But then Tom Mulcair went and sent me a Christmas card so now I feel guilty for wanting to leave.
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How could I break that heart?

Nelson Mandela died. The only time I had ever been to Africa, he was still in jail but mere months away from being released. I was in Senegal, six thousand kilometers from South Africa but Mandela still loomed large there. I remember the taxis had one of two photos in their rear windows: Nelson Mandela or Marilyn Monroe.

Remember that third interview from last month? Sure you do. Well, that was the one that did it. I got me a job in a kind of/sort of I.T. field. It’s a completely different background from what I’ve been doing for the past eight years. But it’s a relief, in a way, to go into something that is completely new.

So there it is: 2013 turned out to be a pretty big year for us. Kid starting school, two big trips, a new career, and some new stuff. So what can we do in 2014?

How about a new member of the family?

A cat. I meant we’re going to the animal shelter to adopt a cat.

Happy Holidays, everyone!