MICHAELA FENGSTAD

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

Tag: social networking

New Home, New Life, New Style – How to Approach Your New Life

There are times in life when  we are left baffled by events, actions or people. To make some sense out of these, our brain tries to match them with something in the past. People are more often left confused when they first meet individuals from outside of their community  (cultural, professional, geographical, etc.) or when they take themselves out of their comfort zone. Deciding to live abroad for example, provides an endless number of opportunities to feel just like this. The first week after I arrived in Vancouver, I felt confused and unsure of what to expect and also of what was expected from me.

It is a challenging and conflicting time for a newcomer: on one hand, the wish to start your new life and become independent is getting stronger every day but the normal reluctance in front of a foreign society and its yet unknown rules and regulations forces you to stick close to your community, the people you know and trust by association to your former life.  There was a certain protocol in my community: neighbours of the same nationality, friends and acquaintances would visit and give the advice they considered necessary to help you start making sense of the new land. Imagine every evening having anywhere between two to seven people coming over with drinks and a heart full of good intentions. Once the wine started flowing, the advice would begin on where to find certain foods, on how to find a good job or where to find a nice a park to relax. The problem was always towards the end when we were forced to take sides on who had the better choice. But this is a different story!  Although contradictory and most of the times subjective, one piece of advice seemed to be consistent: as a newcomer you have to renounce your former life,  give up everything you know and start from scratch. Change had happened, now you have to manage the transition from the  former life to the new, unknown future laying ahead.

In his book Transitions, William Bridges deals exactly with this: change and transition as two different concepts. Change is sudden and situational while the transition process is psychological and happens over time. All transitions, he says, are composed of an ending, a neutral zone and a new beginning. The problem I had experienced and I am sure most of you will agree is that it is easier said than done. Theoretically we all know that as a newcomer we need to let go of our old life in order to move on into the neutral zone of the transition. In a time when you have lost your trusted network of friends and relatives, and when even the way you see yourself  is changing, letting go or ending the connection with “life as you knew it” is the most difficult. “[…] ending is making us fearful. They break our connection with the setting in which we have come to know ourselves [..]” says Bridges. How can one overcome this fear?

I think that the most important thing is to reach out of your community. Get out of your community and ask the help of professionals. Most of the people within your community are  extremely nice and willing to share their settlement experience. But their opinions are biased and emotional based on their subjective, unique experiences. By reaching out to a newcomer settlement service you will be able to polish your language skills, learn reliable information about Canada and the specific area you live in, and most important of all, gain confidence and start understanding the Canadian way.

Experience and have fun with something new every day. Except for few basic things, nothing will ever be the same. From the way you used to drive back home to the way the bed sheet is designed, from the way people interact on the streets to the way people address each other, everything needs to be re-wired. Such a process of replacing habits and common knowledge with new habits and concepts can be overwhelming. In the classic action-reaction model, our minds will go into that resistance mode and will fight back as hard as possible to change. Trick your mind!  Be open and instead of criticizing or comparing with what you used to know start having fun with change. Begin with small steps: what about a new way of setting the table?  Find a new park or a new place to discover at the end of the week! Try to use the very Canadian “eh” at the end of a sentence and join into the smiles that will follow, eh? It is not necessarily about what you do but about the attitude that in time will change, and you will become more accepting of the new ways.

Develop a new habit: asking for help! Well, what do you do when you are lost in the middle of a new city and have no idea how to go back to your hotel? Ask for help! When you are new to Canada, or any other country, city, place, there will be more times when you have no clue how to do things or where to find things. From not being able to find the right word when you need it the most to not knowing how to change the colour at the pedestrian crossing, life in a new country will provide a huge number of opportunities to get upset and lost. Ask for help! Instead of wasting time trying to solve something or to find certain information by yourself, develop this very healthy habit of asking for help!

Stop talking and start listening more! We all have been there. There are times when we get frustrated in the process of settling. Maybe because we are lacking the understanding of how things are done and why things are done in a certain way. Or just because we got hit with a not so rare moment of nostalgia and instead of breaking down and crying, we go on the offensive and start explaining how things are done much better in the old country. Sometimes we remember similar situations that happened back in the old life and we feel compelled to tell the story out loud! Well, not only that it makes us sound very pretentious but for most Canadians is boring as there are usually cultural references and jokes specific to our mother language that are difficult to translate. When nostalgia hits, I have learnt to bite my tongue and start asking questions! Showing interest in the way things are done, in people I meet or  places I visit, not only engages them but also provides a very good way of learning new and interesting things about the Canadian way that otherwise would take time and effort to discover.

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One More Time: Target and Customize Your Job Search

Looking for a job is hard work and writing or updating the resume for most of us is a daunting task that overwhelms and frustrates even the best writers at times.

I believe in targeted resumes, and although you can find more comprehensive and complicated explanations of this term on the net, I always tell my clients that a resume is nothing else than a reply, an answer to a question or even better an offer to a demand. Let’s see the following example: it is winter time and it is not too late to go for your flu shot. You assume the pharmacy or the doctor’s office would have a stock of flu vaccines around this time of the year for obvious reasons. To your surprise, they don’t have the flu shots but they offer you a quite impressive assortment of vaccines for tropical diseases. Hmmm… You are impressed, all right, but they did not address or solve your issue in any way. This is when you go to the next pharmacy that will hopefully answer your demand. Now, replace your person with the business in need of a particular qualification and the pharmacies with the job seekers. The ones that will address the requirements in the particular job posting will get the recruiter’s attention while the others will definitely land into the “NO” pile.

It is easier to preach “targeting” than to put it in practice, especially when using popular sites like LinkedIn. I use LinkedIn and I think it adds value to other aspects of our professional life and even to some parts of a job search. Unfortunately it works against the concept of “targeted” anything. Let me explain. As you all know, on LinkedIn there is only one profile that you can show the world and attract potential employers with. The problem here is that even when you target one specific job with one specific job title, the job descriptions coming from different companies are extremely diverse. Each company has their unique needs, their own organization chart and their own interpretation of a position.
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Business Card Etiquette

Have you noticed that every person that presents his/her business card has their own way of doing so? And once you have the card, do you put it in the wallet immediately, do you fidget a bit with it and then slip it into the pocket? Has it ever happened you left it behind, on the meeting table? Well, let me guide you through the proper way:

When is it appropriate to present your card? If you are attending a meeting, don’t start throwing out your card right at the beginning, between trying to find a seat and getting a glass of water. Wait until everybody is seated and the introductions have been made but don’t wait too long into the meeting either. Once the presentation/meeting started, it will switch the focus from the product or issue to be addressed to you… in a negative way. If you have a portfolio, or any presentation documents for attendees, it is a good idea to stick your card on the first page.

If you are attending a networking event or any other social gathering, walking with the stack of cards in hand and giving them away to everybody is not quite the best idea. Usually, wait a few minutes, create a rapport, a connection of any kind with the other person before reaching for a card. You want to create that “special” effect on your interlocutor, so as he/she will remember you and associate you with good feelings. Remember, before being business men or business women we all are human beings acting on feelings and senses.

Then, when you present the card, no matter how you hold it (with 2 hands, by one corner, etc..) make sure you hand it with the printed face up and ready to be read by the other person.  If you are at the receiving end, take a few seconds to read the name and title on the card. Making sure you remember the name with the proper spelling is a very important detail in any networking or business deal attempt.

After taking the time to look over it, you are free to put it in the pocket, in the binder or wallet without offending anybody. I usually keep them in front of me during the meetings to make sure I have the names right. It helps breaking the ice, it helps connecting and as we are all vain human beings, if you remember my name, I will be more open to whatever service you present.

Needless to say that before taking that little piece of paper out of your pocket to hand it out, make sure that all the details are correct: names, titles, phone numbers and address including the postal code. The devil is in the details! A quality business card will give the feeling of power and money while a bold design will make a lasting impression.

When you work in Sales, most of your time is spent off site, visiting clients or prospects. Take advantage of these visits and use the power of your business card again. Instead of just stating your name to the receptionist or secretary, charm them with a nice compliment and present them with your business card. First, you have all heard  the saying ” Before reaching God, you need to charm all the angels!” You never know who is sitting in that chair and how much decision power could potentially have on your deal or service being considered. Secondly, it is a very nice way of making sure that your name and the company you represent will be announced correctly. It is a great start of a meeting, accommodating everybody and making sure you are associated with positive feelings within the targeted company.

 

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