January 2023 Vol 5 Issue 1
Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):
Specializing in Entrepreneurial Storytelling
Let me tell your story!
Welcome Mid-January, 2023!
Although Saskatchewanians (indeed, Western Canadians) had extended blasts of arctic cold during November and December, the new year has brought much welcome relief, with daytime highs in (only) the minus teens or single digits. As Jeff Rogstad quipped on a recent weather report for CTV Saskatoon, “It’s like we’re in England,” with the fog and mild air.
Although January is often thought to be the gloomiest month in the calendar (and January 16th, “Blue Monday”), I continue to thrive while connecting with die-hard locals at Saskatoon’s YWCA! And this isn’t any “New Year’s Resolution,” as 2023 marks my 17th year of gym membership. . . . Enthusiastically staffed by kinesiology grads, customer service reps and personal trainers, the YW provides reasonably priced memberships to land fitness classes, a fully appointed gymnasium, a cardio theatre and weight room. And you can’t beat their extended daily hours.
Covid has been brutal for gyms like the YW. So if you find January and February to be times of winter blues or blahs, please consider stopping by! Previous fitness training and conditioning are not required.
The appreciable lengthening of our days, as winter proceeds, also give us hope. If you have not been able to travel successfully this winter (given the woes of holiday travel on Sunwing and other airlines), I hope that you, good reader, found time for a staycation of reading great books and maybe catching up on Netflix releases for December!
Happy midwinter and keep moving! To quote Tom Webster in Paul Feig ‘s holiday classic film, “Last Christmas,” “Keep looking up!”
Friends, the sun will return–and with it, eventually, spring.
IN THIS ISSUE:
ARTICLE 1: Do you know any newcomers searching for better jobs? 16 tips in this month’s issue of ‘Tell Your Story Newsletter’
STORYTELLERS’ CORNER: Word nerd alert: The case of “weasel words” with Bryan Garner
Article One: Do you know any newcomers searching for better jobs? Sixteen tips to help them in this month’s issue of ‘Tell Your Story Newsletter’
One of the “side-effects” (as I jokingly call it) of becoming an ESL facilitator (a term I prefer to “teacher,” because “students” range so widely in age, approach and skill level) is that one’s often asked to bridge a gap between a newcomer’s English language skills and the career goals they want to achieve in our community.
As a result, while discussing phrasal verbs or idioms in Business English classes, I sometimes receive questions on how best to search for jobs, how to write a strong cover letter or how to prepare for an interview that uses behavioural (or other, intensive) questions.
So in this inaugural issue of 2023, I thought I might automate some of my advice for newcomer clients by sharing some knowledge about the job search process, as promoted in various webinars I’ve attended with the Career Centre (University of Saskatchewan), over Linkedin and/or Flexjobs.com .
So let’s get started. One of the first tips professional career coaches give is to job seekers is to “manage your expectations”: On average, it takes three to six months to obtain a new job, especially if it is not an entry-level one.
The higher the salary, said Toni Frana recently (over Flexjobs.com), the longer the search will take. But continuing to customize your resume for each application and networking in your field and among targeted companies can speed up the process.
(1) Career coaches generally recommend that job seekers analyze their own values, interests, skills and cultural fit; these can be assessed on sites like careeronestop.org . Be sure to research companies you view as potential employers: consider what you most (and least) want to do in a potential job and if such preferences would fit with the job they’re interviewing for.
YouTube and independently organized informational interviews can help inform job seekers, early in the process. Try to talk with someone doing your “ideal job.” Ask them what an ordinary day looks like in the position and whether the job is sustainable or (too often) viewed as a stepping stone to something else.
(3) Companies of particular interest can be researched over LinkedIn (where companies will have detailed profiles), Google Maps (to locate companies), professional associations in your industry (not-for-profit organizations) and Chambers of Commerce in relevant cities.
(4) Although it’s been said for decades in Canada, newcomers may not know that one should never send out “mass applications” to a number of employers, effectively spamming them with one’s resume and generic cover letter (itself an oxymoron).
(5) Job seekers should always keep their application materials updated: customize each draft of resume that they submit to target the job in question. What transferable skills and experience do you have, if the position is not in your niche?
(6) Always send a customized cover letter (even if the employer says it’s “optional”). Whereas one’s resume describes the candidate, the cover letter should reflect the needs of the employer, as gleaned from the job posting and research one can do to learn more, beyond it.
(7) Build a strong Linkedin profile—after reading you resumes (taking 30 to 45 seconds, maximum), employers next go to Linkedin. Applicants should update their profiles so that the employment section matches their resume and use the opportunity to upload special projects, detail volunteer work and provide work samples, which a two-page resume alone cannot convey.
(8) Applicants should also check their social media (including searching their own names) to clean up one’s profile (if you have photos from high school in it), and to adjust one’s privacy settings. Make sure anything about you online is acceptable for an employer to see or read.
(9) It’s still true that the number one way for a person to get hired is by networking to increase their connections. People should take care to contact others inside of the companies they like, to seek advice. Tell family and friends about what kind of work you are seeking, so as to benefit from their networks, too.
(10) Informational interviews have helped many ambitious executives to secure a foothold in companies they eventually lead, as described by many, including Lisa Lisson, in her 2017 memoir, Resilience: Navigating Life, Loss and the Road to Success (and reviewed in an earlier issue of this newsletter). And do be gracious enough to return support provided by others with professional favours, gifts, “thank you” cards and the like.
(11) Seven to 10 days after applying for a position, send a follow-up email, of two to three sentences (short, sweet, positive), making sure they received your application. Job seekers should keep track of all applications, as they go, updating notes with new developments of a company, in case if they are contacted for an interview (and possibly not even one for the job they had in mind!).
(12) While many job seekers dread interviews, they can be manageable. Researching the company and its online postings is the place to start; job seeker should learn their own resumes very well, to be able to defend the claims they make there.
Rehearse answers to challenging behavioural questions (predicated on the theory that one’s current and future work can be measured by their past performance), using the STAR method (name situation, task, action and result). Now’s the time to bring forward questions for the company. Since most interviews are now held via online meeting software, make sure you can handle that and that your technology is functioning properly before any interview starts.
(13) Make sure the physical background for the interview (in your home office, for instance) is neutral and professional (e.g. without clutter, inappropriate furniture, food, etc.).
(14) Before leaving any interview, seekers should secure the hiring committee’s contact information (if they don’t already have it), so they can send a “thank you” note within 24 hours. Then follow up on that note. If the job is not offered, seekers should ask if there are other opportunities in the same company, saying “I’d be happy to know and be considered for another position, because I believe deeply in this company,” etc.
(15) And on their own time, I tell seekers to research issues like salary. “Know your worth, or you leave money on the table,” says Frana. Most of us have looked at glassdoor.com, but salary.com, payscale.com and careeronestop.org can also be helpful in tracing remuneration levels.
(16) For those lucky enough to get the job offer and resign their old posts, virtually everyone would agree that it’s essential to resign gracefully (never “burn bridges,” even if the company was a poor fit), wrap up loose ends, offer to train the next hire and prepare for an “exit interview,” where you can suggest some changes you would like to have seen, while also being gracious and professional.
The above are 16 tips I’ve uncovered during my own research and that newcomers (not to mention job seekers born and raised in Canada) may find helpful. “This isn’t rocket science,” many professionals would say. Yet committing to the process with sustained energy is crucial to any job seeker’s long-term success.
And now it’s your turn: are there particular strategies not mentioned above that have helped you in your job search? Are you a newcomer or were you born and raised here and how has that affected your job search?
Please share your thoughts through the “contact” link below. I’d be delighted to hear from you.
American etymologist, Bryan Garner, recently blogged on the phenomenon of “weasel words.” Garner quotes the former US president, Theodore Roosevelt, who first used the term in a speech in Missouri on May 31st, 1916: “One of our defects as a nation is a tendency to use what have been called ‘weasel words.’ When a weasel sucks eggs, it sucks the meat out of the egg and leaves it an empty shell.
If you use a ‘weasel word’ after another, these is nothing left of the other.”
Garner writes that “some writers have incorrectly assumed that the metaphor (‘weasel words’) suggested itself because of the wriggling, evasive character of the weasel. In any event, sensitive writers are aware of how supposed intensives (e.g. “very”) often have the effect of weakening a statement.”
Some other words have a similar effect of making uncertain, or hollow, the statements in which they appear, such as “candidly,” “clearly,” “manifestly,” “seriously,” “obviously,” “perfectly,” and more.
Garner recommends using such words sparingly, at best, and more in casual conversation than in print.
And now it’s your turn: can you share ‘weasel words’ that have infiltrated your speech or writing? Please write in; I’d be delighted to hear from you.
I’m delighted to share that two talented and valued colleagues, podcaster and communications specialist Christine Cherneskey; and geographical planner, sociologist, facilitator and interviewer extraordinaire, Lenore Swystun, have joined forces to broadcast over Saskatoon’s community radio station, CFCR!
As the page of their shared program, “Civically Speaking,” says, it is now “a podcast that focuses on all things civic in the 21st century.”
These two multi-talented hosts “invite guests and guest panels to discuss all things current and topical. . . . We talk planning, politics, people . . . civically speaking!”
You can read more (and tune in) here:
Last week’s interview featured Dave Meslin, author of Teardown: Rebuilding Democracy from the Ground Up.
Although I prefer not to exchange many gifts with family and friends at Christmas, especially during pandemic financial times, I was deeply touched by the handmade gift that an dear friend mailed me last month.
My former copywriting buddy Christine Loff, with whom I trained through the American Writers and Artists Institute (AWAI), back in 2010, has since worked as a freelance photographer, and now enjoys extensive sewing, embroidery and handmade craft making.
Although not “local” in the strictest sense of living in Saskatoon or Saskatchewan, Christine is an entrepreneur whose creative talents and instincts warrant promoting, this month!
She has formally retired to a farm near Riverton, MB, in the province’s interlake region with her husband, a professional bassoonist, formerly of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.
There, when Manitoba’s flooding does not destroy the family garden, Christine plants and harvests enough food for a large army (!), makes crafts using skills she learned as a child from her mother, a European-trained tailor. She makes everything from dolls’ clothes to cell phone cases, bookmarks and mug pads.
You can learn more about Christine’s work here: https://www.sew-fashion-
She takes custom orders on handcrafts- and finds the work both soothing and fulfilling.
Special thanks this month go to the recently departed Fitness Director at the YWCA, Fred Dyck. For the past seven years, Fred has manned the helm of the cardio, gym and weight rooms, welcoming everyone, while also maintaining a respectful atmosphere in which all of us could move, safely and positively.
Fred could often be found helping at the reception desk, teaching classes and even shovelling snow behind the building, to make the facility more accessible.
Fred has moved on to direct the SPCA and we “regulars” miss him already! Thank you so much, Fred, and all the best for your next chapter!
And as I prepare intensively to teach business communications to local newcomers for a local charitable organization, I remain ever grateful for the sharing of resources and mentorship offered me by my long-term advisor, dear friend, and (always) attentive listener, Monica Kreuger. 2023 marks ten years that I have known her through another of our province’s gems, the Raj Manek Mentorship Program.
When not chairing our local Chambers of Commerce, or LutherCare Communities with umatched insight, Monica continues to forge new markets as the Chief Visionary (and Executive) Officer of the Praxis Group of Schools, including the Praxis School of Entrepreneurship (PSE), where many of my colleagues and I are alumni.
Bringing passion to everything that she does, Monica inspires her proteges and affiliates to reach beyond their limits, and strive for the greater good of our community–and ourselves.
And speaking of that, intake for a new cohort of PSE’s flagship course, the startSMART program, is underway: Help support a fledgling entrepreneur in your life by contacting PSE administrator, Elaine Mantyka, for all the details. And do so now, so you don’t miss out on the programming!
Between 2011 and December 2018, Elizabeth Shih Communications chronicled the stories of B2B marketing and communications on the Prairies and across the country.
On January 1, 2019, my company rebranded as “Storytelling Communications.” I now assist new and economic newcomers to secure better jobs by improving their English-as-a-Second-Language skills; I facilitate business communications courses for job seekers and budding entrepreneurs; and I write the legacy stories of major companies.
After I receive your message, I’ll be pleased to discuss projects with you!
Please visit my website for more information (www.