MICHAELA FENGSTAD

Writing about life as it happens, trends in career development and new inspiration

Month: March 2014

Baby Steps – My First Riding Jacket

I am not sure if I ever loved clothes as much as the shopping experience. There is something about the stores that make me smile even if I get there in a foul mood. I might be quite rude to the first couple of store assistants that don’t know better and come to offer the most spectacular discounts in their store’s view but I calm down quite soon after and enjoy myself. My shopping trips last anywhere from 4 hours to a full day only because I have to try almost everything. I must be one of the most frustrating customers as I try lots but buy a few. This is how my husband eased me into the world that he loves. He took advantage of my weakness for shopping.

The first thing after we bought his motorcycle, and I swore I would never ride with him or by myself, he asked me to help him pick a jacket. He found this store Up Your Leather that sounded kind of dirty and funny at the same time. My interest was  peaked! Plus, when you say leather jacket, any woman suddenly is interested. It is something about leather that makes us giddy and bit naughty. We went to the Langley store and  I pretty much tried every jacket they had. Now, as a woman future rider, I did not find the selection was breath taking. There were maybe 7 styles, with one coming in a few colours. Even so, I forgot why we were there in the first place: to find a jacket for my husband. We ended up buying a jacket for myself instead. I chose my first jacket based on how well fitted me and based on how much I liked the style. At the time, I knew nothing about what you are to look for, when choosing a proper riding gear. It didn’t really matter as we went to a specialty store and they guided us to what we needed.

 

 

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Fast forward 1 year, on my way to get my own license and having been around a lot of experienced riders and a lot of research I learnt that there is more to what you should be looking for when buying a jacket. And here is what I now know:

  • There are 4 criteria your jacket needs to fit: style, comfort, safety features and performance. And yes, style and colour are as important as all the other features. I would never go for style only, but, I will not ever wear a jacket I find ugly.
  • Your jacket should fit your riding style: you are a weekend/occasional rider, you are planning a touring trip with long hours riding your bike, you like cruising around on country roads, you enjoy off road riding, etc. For each riding style, there are certain features you should be looking for in a jacket.
  • Are you riding only in good weather or maybe in colder, wetter weather? Vancouver is one of the most beautiful places on earth but, here, all you need is 5 minutes and weather will change; planning for wet weather is a must even for a few hours rides;
  • Leather versus textiles; while leather is more resistant to abrasions and weather, the textile fibre jackets are lighter and more comfortable; leather will last longer if properly cared for but again, textile is more flexible and lighter. If you want a textile with the leather capabilities, you should chose a jacket with Kevlar padding – which is a high strength material. Some of its uses: bullet proof vests, military helmets, car tyres, fire proof clothing…
  • Your jacket needs to have elbows, shoulders and back padding and while shifting positions on the bike or just moving around, the padding must stay in place and not shift. In case of an accident, you need all these pieces to protect you as planned
  • Reflective material! This is a very important feature of your jacket. We all know how easy it is for a motorcycle to get into the blind spots of the other vehicle they share the road with. Anything that can increase your visibility on the road needs to be considered. Most of the jackets will have already reflective features but, if you choose a black jacket, add reflective bands around your arms , wear a reflective vest over the jacket as soon as the sun prepares to come down;
  •  Inside pockets – if you need to hide a wallet, sleeves that can be locked around your wrist to protect you from the wind creeping up your arms,
  • No unnecessary add-ons like flaps or  outside pockets that can easily get tangled on your jackets. Sometimes fashion is not necessary safe. See the beautiful 10 inch high heels that are still so fashionable. Don’t fall for a bit of unnecessary glam that could put your life in danger. Style is good but too much of it can kill you!
  • In the Internet era, research is just a given! Every item for sale has a bunch of reviews. Even i everything seems to be perfect, take the item to research your choice. Read the reviews and then, make up your mind. And don’t forget to give back to the community! You have your own opinion? Please share it with everybody else. Write a review of the product. Knowledge is powerful only when it is shared!

One thing to remember is that the jacket will not fit the same when you are on the motorcycle. The best way to try it is by taking it outside and getting on your bike. Get in the riding position with the hands on the steering bars. If it feels comfortable, everything falls in the right place, then you know you found the best fit!

My second jacket is a Joe Rocket. I liked the vibrant colour, the very sleek design and the way the padding matches my body. It is still new and I wore it only once but I think I made the right choice.

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Have you found your jacket? What was the feature you could not live without? Let’s hope now for a sunny season! Safe riding everyone!

Why Using Big Words and Acronyms Won’t Do You Any Good

Remember the times when you started your first job in the corporate world? Everybody seemed to talk a different language although they all were swearing it is old, plain English. The COB’s and LPR’s and the PLT’s and DRSPB’s and all these other acronyms that meant nothing and got you even more confused and wondering if you’ll ever be able to learn everything and succeed in the job. And then, there were the town meetings, where the senior executives were trying to impress everybody with the quarterly or mid year productivity numbers and the company’s direction and vision in a language so difficult to understand that most of us were just dozing off or making mental shopping lists for the upcoming birthday party.

As a job seeker, your objective must be quite the opposite: you want the reader to be excited about meeting you, about learning new things regarding your work experience and over all, you want them to be engaged. You have to use crisp statements, a plain English language and create a document that exudes action and engagement.

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Info Graphics – or How To Get Noticed!

I found a few creative resumes that will for sure attract all the attention! Do I recommend them for all the jobs? Definitely not! But if you are in a creative field, go bold! Show your personality and grab that job! Although most of the examples below refer to designers or illustrators, if you are looking for a job as a hair stylist, a painter, a server or even a constructor, go for it! Whenever you need to show your artistic side, instead of words, which sometimes betray us, go bold!

Anna Yenina – Graphic Designer


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I Think I Exist… or So I Think

How many of you start a sentence with the very common phrase “I think…”? Every time I need to buy some time in a conversation I use this phrase. Sometimes I am not sure whether I am really invited to open up about an idea or to make a judgement. Some other times, I hope something else will come up and I will not have to speak up. Or some other times, I am still looking for the proper words to lay out unpleasant facts without getting too personal. The fact is, every time we use the “I think” phrase we annoy the interlocutor and we give the impression of being less assertive, less decided and a lot apologetic.

Let me give you an examples. One of the most frequently used question in interviews is:
Why would we hire you?

And these would be the two potential answers:

Answer A: I am motivated, I am determined to succeed and my work experience perfectly matches your job description.
Answer B: I think I am motivated and determined and I believe my experience matches your job description.

Do you feel the difference? The first answer is powerful and direct and demonstrates self-esteem – a trait that employers are more and more looking for in their employees. Studies have suggested that employees who possess a high self esteem are more successful in their jobs. They view challenges as opportunities to progress and benefit from, and, they have a more positive view on life.

The second answer is not as determined. It actually leaves the impression that you are doubting yourself. I could very well have answered: “I am not sure if I am motivated and determined but I hope my experience matches your job description…” Not something that the hiring manager wants to hear.  Plus, if the question is addressed to you, clearly the answer needs to come from you and to reflect what you think! No need at all to start the answer with a redundant “I think…”

 

 

Will Résumés Become Mini-Bilboards Any Time Soon?

It is no secret that these days, more and more,  we notice a clear transition to a new high tech era. It is hard to believe, for example that only a few years ago everybody was using a fax machine, from individuals to small businesses and large corporations. Today, I need a second to even remember how it looked like. All you need is internet connection (or a nice coffee shop with free wi-fi) and a laptop or tablet and you have your own office! Notice that I said a laptop because even the PC is fast becoming a thing of the past.

But where do we stand with our résumé in this new high tech era?  Well, a new type has emerged and despite of the controversy it has created, more and more visual résumés appear on the Internet. The question remains whether or not they are successful. It is still to be determined!

What is a resume? Why do we write resumes? According to Wikipedia, “A résumé […] is a document used by individuals to present their background and skillsets. Résumés can be used for a variety of reasons but most often to secure new employment.” This is the key we need to focus on when writing such a document: it helps secure employment! There are 3 conditions visual or not, to get us an interview:
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The Minimalist Approach in How to Chose a Font for Your Resume

Since Steve Job’s love for simple design I have been reevaluating  the minimalist theories; a minimalist life, minimalist principles, minimalist aesthetics are just a few topics I am following in various articles and blogs.

I should first say that I am not a big fan of the minimalist art. I can stare as long as I physically can into Malevich’ Black Square and there is no emotion or artistic vision revealed to me. I might as well stare at a painted wall. The idea that there should be no needless lines or strokes on a drawing is taken to the extreme where all the lines have been deemed unnecessary. I am therefore left with nothing to dream about, to be moved by or simply to smile at.

And yet I enjoy minimalist writing. Hemingway was the first such novelist I fell in love with. Maybe because it happened to discover him right after finishing Dickens’ The Bleak House or just because I fell in love with his direct, naked style: no fluff, no unnecessary adornments and some cussing here and there. Reading him I understood that the flowery Victorian style is not the only one that can move and inspire. But I digress when all I wanted was to write about the boring but so powerful resumes.

A well written resume should be the best minimalist work: few intentionally used words painting a lifetime. Something similar to what Hemingway created when challenged to write a story in 6 words: “For sale: baby shoes, never used.” With this in mind, I decided to apply the same concept: nothing should just land on a resume. From the fonts to the meanings should be thought about, and decided on only after thoughtful consideration.

How many times have you even considered what font to use? If you happened to give it a thought you probably chose it based on how appealing the font was to you. Surprise! The only opinion that matters is the one of the hiring manager. And out of experience, all they care about is how legible it is.

There are so many fonts available and it is quite easy to spend long minutes trying them all just to end up selecting one of the two most popular fonts: Arial and Times New Roman  because of their qualities:

  • Very easy to read
  • Don’t have any unnecessary swirls, windings and tails
  • The spacing between the letters in words and sentences is just right
  • When they are in bold or italics they preserve the same clean, easy to read characteristics even in a smaller font
  • They make the best use of the page space
  • They look best in both hard copy printing and on the Internet (with some preferring Arial over Times New Roman)

Their usability and friendliness have been proven over and over again but haven’t these two fonts lived their lives? Shouldn’t they retire and make room for newer, bolder fonts?  There is no simple answer but my choice in using them over and over again for resumes is that they remain the preferred font for the corporate world. Remember, their opinion matter when we are writing our resumes!

In choosing the right font for your resume,  keep in mind a few rules:
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Why I Say “No, Thank You” To a “Thank You Card”

One of the questions that keeps popping up lately is about Thank You Cards versus Thank You Notes (or emails). I have never sent a Thank You Card since email communication has taken the lead over snail mail. I don’t believe in cards anymore. Don’t get me wrong,  I encourage everybody to make sure and send a sincere, personalized thank you note after each interview. People like to be acknowledged, people like to feel good and valued. Your Thank You Note will do just that: it will bring a smile on a face or a minute of “feel good about myself” attitude and you will be remembered. I just don’t believe in traditional cards. And here is why:

There was a time when I would race my husband to collect the mail. The excitement of opening that small box and being the first one to touch the letter from my parents or the birthday cards from pretty much around the world was something I was looking forward to.  There was magic and excitement and surprise and yes, the occasional heartache when the taxman would send his bills in. But I enjoyed every bit of it. In time, the excitement has faded away. Now I get happy and excited every time I open the mailbox and it is empty! I gave up the daily trip to pick up my mail a while ago. I don’t get letters from my parents anymore. My dad has a laptop and an email account. We talk almost daily via Skype or iChat. I am exchanging recipes and having girls-talks with my mom any time I need to and they are not sleeping (considering we live on different continents). I laugh and share jokes and play the big sister in real time now, for my brother. So, I don’t check my mailbox anymore …
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