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Feeling anxious about job security? Join the crowd! Here is the second of a three-part mini series by Career Coach Karen Begemann with recommendations to strengthen your position in your workpalce.

Recommendation #2: Hedge your bets by Getting and Staying Connected
Yesterday’s recommendation helps ensure you are fully fuelled to be a star performer: Know Your Why. Today it’s time to talk about getting and maintaining connections with people.

One of the top protective factors in career resiliency is having supportive relationships; people who believe in you; care about you. Think of someone who appears to have a solid career. Chances are they are also well-connected and seem to know how to leverage those relationships in a positive and productive way. You know that adage, It’s not what you know, it’s who you know?

Many of us shy away from networking as we believe we don’t have the time to do it or that it won’t yield the results we hope for. Part of the challenge is figuring out which connections are potentially the most productive and offer benefit to both parties. Mutual benefit is a key to the success of these relationships. Rather than thinking just about how someone could help you, think of what you can offer others. Asking the question, “How can I help? “ often can lead to opportunities you never knew existed. It also reinforces your value to the workplace.

What are the ways you like to connect with others professionally? Networking events, networking organizations, social media, attending industry events are but a few. However, one of the best ways is through informational interviewing. This is a meeting you arrange with an individual in an area or position you are interested in. It could be also be with someone at a management-level in an organization you are interested in. You ask questions to learn more about their occupation or about what a company looks for in the position. It is not about asking for a job but rather for information.

This method has benefits on several levels. One, it allows you to learn about a new direction, or to learn more about a position within your field. Secondly, it is a way to connect with potential future managers. You’ve given them a chance to meet you and form an impression of you. By staying in touch and maintaining key relationships like this you are sowing seeds for the future. If and when change is afoot, you now have a network of individuals who may be able to help you. For more information about Informational Interviews, click here.

Many people find that a combination of ways to connect with others tends to work best. How will you start to increase your connections?

Come back tomorrow for the third and final recommendation.
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Karen Begemann has worked in the career development field for the past 10 years in government-funded employment programs, the corporate sector and in private practice as a Career Coach and Facilitator. Her passion professionally is helping people to connect with meaningful work. She provides a range of services including career exploration, job search (resume support, networking strategies and job interview coaching) and resiliency coaching (dealing with work related stress). Karen also specializes in working with professional moms who are planning to return to the workforce. She practices in Vancouver, BC and provides coaching services either in person or on the telephone. Karen can be reached at 604-828-5600 for a complimentary telephone session to determine an individual’s career coaching needs. For more information visit www.workmattersconsulting.com.

Photo Credit: Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Today is the start of a 3-post mini series by Career Coach Karen Begemann with a recommendation today, tomorrow and Thursday to strengthen your job security during these days of real economic uncertainty.  We’ve been pretty jittery the past couple of years, haven’t we?  I don’t know about you, but I lived through the dismantling of a bank and it was, well, really awful. Most of you won’t experience anything that drastic (God forbid) but there likely have been and will be lay-offs around you. Here’s recommendation #1 to increase the odds that you won’t be one of them.
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Recommendation  1: Know your Why
Ask yourself, what motivates me to do the work I do?  For some it’s the lifestyle it affords them, for others it may be a sense of contribution, opportunities for learning, growth or advancement. The list goes on.  Think about someone you admire. What is it about them that draws you to them? Chances are they are driven by an inner passion to do what they do.  If you think about what makes people successful, one of the key qualities is this sense of purpose.

Think about moments in your own work where you are completely absorbed by what you are doing. What were you doing that engaged you so fully? These “flow moments” offer us clues to a deeper purpose that motivate us in our work.  Now ask yourself, how can I do more of this and other activities that really engage me?

While being highly engaged with your work is no guarantee of security, the odds increase that you will be doing the quality of work that makes you a highly valued employee.  Being clear on your Why will fuel you to be a high performer.

Check back tomorrow for Recommendation #2!
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Karen Begemann has worked in the career development field for the past 10 years in government-funded employment programs, the corporate sector and in private practice as a Career Coach and Facilitator. Her passion professionally is helping people to connect with meaningful work.  She provides a range of services including career exploration, job search (resume support, networking strategies and job interview coaching) and resiliency coaching (dealing with work related stress). Karen also specializes in working with professional moms who are planning to return to the workforce. She practices in Vancouver, BC and provides coaching services either in person or on the telephone. Karen can be reached at 604-828-5600 for a complimentary telephone session to determine an individual’s career coaching needs. For more information visit www.workmattersconsulting.com.

Photo Credit: Dave77459

I’ve been fed up for quite some time now with the notion that history majors are of little practical use to the world, won’t land good jobs, and have no place on senior management teams of the Fortune 500. Articles like this leave me gobsmacked.

I don’t know where that idea comes from: We history majors (and often the parents) or the business world. So a word to each.

But first – just to shake it up quickly –  Martha Stewart.  Lee Iacoca. Tamara Vrooman. Lord David Sainsbury.  Anita Roddick.  All history majors, and that’s just a cursory check.

History Majors: Do you want to be a barista? Then by all means go to Italy, learn all about coffee, and be the best barista you can be. But for god’s sakes don’t start out in life assuming your only option will be  serving coffee or something else equally low-paying. That’s simply not true unless you perpetuate the myth for yourself – and others – by spending your energies getting that kind of work.

Do you, O History Major, harbour suspicion towards the business world? You should – we all should – in that anything involving people is riddled with self-interest, corruption, and competing interests. That’s the way of All Of Life, not simply the business world. But surely as history majors you also know this by now: there are greater and lesser Goods. Some businesses operate more ethically than others. Some places that ostensibly are doing good are naively doing harm. Some places (I’m thinking of the mining industry) have a bad rap but are in fact sometimes surprising us by taking real leadership. All places are a mix, and you can be part of influencing that mix. Or you can serve coffee and bitch about it.

Will you need to make the case to prove your value, even when you shouldn’t have to? Perhaps. So did women. So do people of colour. So go out and do likewise.   Here is a starter list of why you should be running Starbucks, not serving it.

Decision makers and HR folks, a letter:

Dear Business,

Allow me to make the business case for hiring, promoting and prizing history majors.

1. History majors can scan vast amounts of information, find what is relevant to your business, and also discern which sources are credible, and which are not.
Need someone who can scan the business environment and reliably provide you critical information? Hire a history major.

2. History majors know that what is not said can be as important as what is said.
What’s your churn rate? Do you know why your customers are leaving? History majors can find out what your customers aren’t telling you, and recommend win-back strategies. Hire one.

3. History majors can identify themes and zeitgeists. What value do you place on picking up trends before your competition does? History majors can keep you ahead of the curve. Hire one.

4. History majors are usually fluent in more than one language. If you’re only doing business with English-speakers, skip to the next point and history majors, move to the next employer.

5. History majors connect the dots. They know that what happened in Country X affected Country Y. Need talent who knows the implications of seemingly disparate events? Hire a history major.

6. History majors construct well-thought-out arguments, after weighing one set of possibilities against another. Need someone to create smart, grounded strategies? Hire a history major.

7. History majors have a global mindset, having immersed themselves in learning about wildly different cultures and social systems. Need someone with humility towards other cultures and a flexible mindset? Hire a history major.

8. History majors know how to research and evaluate the findings. Need someone with the analytical skills to not only assess data, but who knows which questions to ask in the first place? Hire a history major.

9. History majors find out who the key influencers are. Need someone to lobby for you? Hire a history major.

10. History majors get the big picture. In fact, it usually spans millennia. Need someone not easily thrown by immediate events and can frame the micro events of your business into perspective? Hire a history major.

Photo credit:  nemzetikonyvtar

Post #1 in August’s Work and Your Wallet series. While this post is Canada-specific, the same demographics are at play in the USA.
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The bottom line is that if Canada’s GDP per capita (in plain English:  how much per person we produce – economically, I mean, not having progeny!) doesn’t grow each year (last year we produced 10 cars and 50 shipfulls of wheat and 10 truckloads of lumber;   this year we produced 11 cars and 52 shipfulls of wheat and 12 truckloads of lumber) then we suffer.  You and I suffer.

Bah.  Not suffer, not in relative-to-Guatemala terms.  But we have we don’t have as many cars to trade for bright shiny objects like iPads so we make do with fewer iPads.  Or fewer outfits.  Or fewer loaves of bread.

And how do we make sure we keep producing as much as or more than the prior year?   Making those cars and growing the wheat and cutting the lumber requires people.  In HR lingo, labour force.  Or for the high-falutin’ car-engineer types, talent pools.

If there’s one thing I picked up loud and clear in my 2 years of HR work, and attending a Cdn. Minister’s Conference (long story) on the topic, it’s that the issue is no longer theoretical.  It is upon us.  Our labour pool is just beginning to start its Big Shrink. It scared the crap outta me, truth be told.

**Let me guess.  At this point you are:  <  rolls eyes >    #I’vebeenhearingaboutthisforever. Right? **

Well so have I, and consider this.  The fact that you haven’t yet experienced it, haven’t felt it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.  For one thing, it’s only just starting.  The first baby boomer cohort has just left the workforce.  No problem for year one.   But next year, it’s going to happen again.   And the next year, it’s going to happen again.   We’ll start to feel it then.   And in 2015 it will happen again.   My prediction is that 2015 is The Year when all doubt will be removed from our minds about the impact of the Boomer’s leaving.

And as there are fewer people making the cars, growing the grain and sawing the lumber, our GDP per capita shrinks.

And when we’re at that point, what’s the impact on your wallet?

  1. If you are not a baby-boomer, you will not lack for jobs in Canada and you should be able to negotiate the best salaries of your life.   For the first time in living memory, job-seekers will hold the bargaining power, structurally.
  2. You will pay the most taxes of your life to support the retired and the elderly who will continue to have high expectations, especially healthcare.  At the same time, services you use from the government will be reduced.  Put crassly:  it will pretty much suck.  The retirees will still hold the votes and have the time to be activists. Expect their wants to win, and yours to take a back seat.
  3. It will cost an arm and a leg, even more than currently, for skilled labour.  My advice?  Learn to fix your own stuff!

Take a look at the graphs below.   See the big clump that starts red|yellow|green|blue ? Take a look at how it’s slowly been moving towards the older age and retirement.  Slowly, but surely.

I took the following graphics from NationMaster, which I gather is a sort of Wikipedia.

Canada Population Pyramid for 2000

Age and sex distribution for the year 2000:

Canada Population Pyramid for 2003

Age and sex distribution for the year 2003:

Canada Population Pyramid for 2005

Age and sex distribution for the year 2005:

Canada Population Pyramid for 2010

Age and sex distribution for the year 2010:

Canada Population Pyramid for 2020

Predicted age and sex distribution for the year 2020:

Photo Credit:  Trevor Blake 

Love your job?  Hate your job?

Obsessed with your work?

Counting the days til retirement?  (you know who you are!)

Irregardless, the fact is our work is the vast majority of our income for most of us and is a biiiiig factor in our financial lives.

So this month, Wednesday and Weekend blog posts will be about our work life.

Topics lined up include:

  • How to Recession-Proof your job (guest post by Career Coach)
  • Where the Smart Jobs are
  • 3 ways the coming labour shortage will affect your wallet
  • Bullying on the workplace
  • How to rock your Benefits
  • How to handle your money if you’re out of work
  • Making peace with retirement (not everyone finds it easy, you know)

So come by on Wednesdays and Weekends for Work and Your Wallet posts, and on day in between for slightly lighter fare regarding your money.

Photo Credit: Red Cyan