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Tough times never last

Eight years ago, I was fresh out of college and eager to start my career in marketing. My first job was an entry-level position with the provincial government. Six months later, I was able to leverage my experience and earned a marketing position within municipal government.

From there, I ended up in Vancouver, worked for a few amazing companies, moved to Europe, pursued a freelance writing career… and eventually found myself back in Vancouver where I landed an amazing job as a Marketing Manager.

The first eight years of my career has certainly seen its ups and downs, and unfortunately this is one of those “down” moments. Due to downsizing, my position – along with many others – was eliminated yesterday. So now, I find myself unemployed.

Related: How to survive unemployment

At first I was really, really sad. Which is obviously a natural reaction. I enjoyed the people I worked with very much, and the thought of not seeing them every day is hard to deal with. I know I’m going to miss the diverse, challenging work – and it’s a company I truly believed in. I also felt bad for the other people that got let go. They have mortgages and families to take care of. It’s going to be difficult for everyone. Then I became angry – but angry at myself, and that was the wrong emotion to have. I kept thinking about what I could have done differently, and whether I just didn’t work hard enough in the year I was there. I felt stupid and useless. But truthfully, there’s nothing I could have done to prevent this from happening, and getting laid off isn’t a reflection of my skills as an employee either.

It’s been a tough 24 hours as I tried to process what happened. Lots of tears and frustration and pep talks. But that’s life. There are bound to be tough times, but it’s how you deal with those situations that defines you and makes you into a better person. Most of you know that I’ve been laid off before by a company, so I know what to expect. I know the roller coaster of emotions that comes along with losing your job, but most importantly I also know that I always come out of situations like this stronger than before. BF said if there’s one thing he’s learned about me is that I’m resilient, and my mom reminded me that, even in this poor job market, I’m still employable. I landed this last job within 4 days of arriving home from Germany. Not that I’m expecting that kind of result again, but despite how bad I feel now – just a day after this has happened – I know that unemployment won’t last forever.

As for my finances, of course this changes a lot of things. I’m eligible to collect Employment Insurance, so I will be applying for that after I receive my last pay cheque and severance pay (2 weeks). I’ll have to suspend my RRSP/TFSA contributions and long-term savings goals until further notice, and I have my Emergency Fund if necessary.

Related: Can you feed yourself for $100/month?

So that’s that. I’m going to work hard every day to prove to myself and my future employer that I am a skilled and valuable asset to any team. I’m going to stay positive, stick to a routine, and start networking. I am good at what I do, and there’s a company out there waiting to hire a person just like me. I know it. :)

3 questions to ask during your next job interview

Let’s face it, job interviews are stressful. Not only do you have to do a lot of research on the company before hand, but you also have to somehow figure out a way to make yourself stand out from the other candidates. Then once you’ve got all that sorted, you have to remember the little things – like how long it’s going to take to get to the office, what you’re going to wear, what the names are of the people interviewing you, and the questions you plan on asking them.

If I’ve ever met you in person, you might have noticed that I can come across as shy, and maybe even a bit awkward. I’m not great at small talk, and I get nervous easily. This definitely makes things like networking (or even first dates) kind of a problem, and it should also make interviews a nightmare. But for some reason, I’m good at them. Still haven’t figured out why that is!

My boss told me that I won my current job over another candidate with more directly related experience (I don’t know anything about nuclear science!) because I showed that I was confident, passionate, and believed in what I do. When I was less than a year into the workforce, I was offered two different fairly high profile jobs (which both required 5-7 years of experience), and once during the final round of interviewing, a city manager told me that I had a quality about me that he couldn’t pinpoint, but found very appealing.

Related: Truth – if you don’t ask, you won’t get

Now, I’m not saying all of this to boast. It’s to illustrate my point that your resume and experience might get you the interview, but it’s how you come across in person that will win you the job. At least that’s been my experience in my industry. With a 2-year technical diploma, I’m likely never going to be the most qualified person – but I make up for it by showing enthusiasm throughout the entire interview. And I think one of the best ways to do this is near the end, when they ask “do you have any questions about the job?”

I feel like it’s common knowledge to have a few standard questions to ask, but I’ve been surprised over the years when conducting interviews, many people just say no. Then the interview is over, and it’s been completely one-sided – with one person asking, and one person answering. You wouldn’t go on a date and not ask any questions, would you? So it shouldn’t be any different with an interview. Sure, they’re interviewing you for the job, but you’re also interviewing them to see if they’re the right employer for you.

These might be pretty generic, but here are my favourite questions to ask employers:

1. Is this a new position to the company?

This is by far my favourite question to ask, if I haven’t already been able to find the answer online. It can give you a lot of seriously good insight into what the position is all about.

If it’s a new position, the follow-up questions become pretty important: why the position was created in the first place (was it to go in a new corporate direction, take the burden off of another employee, or because they’re expanding so rapidly?), or where they see the position moving to in the future. Is there room for growth?

Sometimes with completely new positions, they don’t really know what they’re looking for – just that they know they want somebody. In my current position, I was hired to write. But in the 9 months I’ve been there, I haven’t done any writing, and I knew that based on the interview. I was the first and only hire in the newly created marketing position, so I knew I would take on everything else that marketing encompasses, like trade shows, graphic design, event coordination, website maintenance, etc.

If the position you’re interviewing for is to take over for somebody else, asking why that person is leaving is also a good question to ask. Usually LinkedIn will provide clues as to whether the company has a high turnover rate, or if their employees stay long-term.

2. What is the corporate/company culture like?

For me, this is an important one because I want to know what it’s going to be like working there on a day-to-day basis. What are my co-workers like? Is everyone social, or do they keep to themselves? It’s also important because it shows the employer that you’re likely interested in staying long-term, and that you’re looking for more than just a pay cheque.

Usually you’ll learn things about the corporate environment (open space vs. offices), and sometimes they might even bring a few employees in to talk about what it’s like there. I really appreciate it when they do that. Getting to talk to potential colleagues makes it real, and you will likely get a much better feel for the company that way. Not that I want to make best friends out of my co-workers, but it’s important that you like the people you work with.

3. What direction do you see the company headed in the next 5 to 10 years?

I like this question because you will be able to see how your position can affect the company’s short-term and long(er)-term goals. If they’re looking to expand, perhaps that means there will be opportunities for advancement or movement/travel to different offices. If they’re looking to chase competition, that might mean exciting opportunities. If they’re looking to go a different direction, you will get a glimpse into whether you want to go that direction as well.

Related: Are you a job hopper?

As a side note, I think there’s a fine line between presenting the best version of yourself that you can be, and being fake. Once, I crossed that line. I got caught up in the personalities of the two people interviewing me, and I started to act and answer questions in a way that I knew they would like, but wasn’t me at all. In the end, I got the job… but once I actually started working, we all quickly realized that my day to day personality was a lot different (and that came across in my writing, which is what I was hired for). I was let go within my probation period. It was a hard lesson to learn, but a good one nonetheless.

What are your favourite questions do you ask during job interviews?

2013 Canadian Personal Finance Conference!

I haven’t mentioned it much on this blog, but this September will mark the 3rd Annual Canadian Personal Finance Conference – a conference I co-founded and organize with Preet Banerjee. This year’s speaker line-up includes some of the best writers in Canada – including Rob Carrick (Globe and Mail), Ellen Roseman (Toronto Star), and Dan Bortolotti (Canadian Couch Potato)… and over the weekend the conference sold out! Click here to put your name on the wait list. :)

Anyway the reason why I’m mentioning this is because this past week, I realized there’s only two months left until the conference. I didn’t have my flight booked, and had no idea where I was going to stay.

Last year, I stayed close to Kensington Market, and really liked the area. I snagged a great deal: an entire apartment for $70/night. The owner was new to AirBnB, so I think he was just trying to figure out how much he should be charging… because when I went to look at his listing again over the weekend, I realized his rates had risen to $125/night! Yikes. I liked him and his apartment, but not for that amount of money.

Related: My review of AirBnB (via FrugalWanderer.com)

I finally found a listing near Kensington Market that was going for $79/night. It was free for the days I looking for, so I e-mailed her right away. She was friendly, and pre-approved me to book the room. The only problem was when I went to go book online, she had increased the daily rate to $88/night. I was annoyed, because while it’s still a good price (and still the cheapest in the area), I felt like it was pretty sneaky. So I e-mailed her back and told her that I noticed that her rates had increased, and if she wouldn’t mind giving me the lower price – since that’s what made me want to book her room in the first place. She was very apologetic, and agreed to the lower rate. Great!

Related: Truth – If you don’t ask, you won’t get

So I ended up paying $304 for 4 nights in Toronto. Much cheaper than a hotel, and cheaper than any private room in a hostel as well. Sure, I could have stayed in a hostel dorm room (and I would have, if this was a vacation trip), but because it’s a business trip, I like having the extra space and privacy to get work done when needed.

As for my flight? Thanks to my new Capital One Aspire World Travel Mastercard, my flight was free. :) I’m pleased that a card I’ve only been using since February has already earned me enough points to get me a $600 flight.

Now all I have to do is worry about my spending money. Because I’ll be pretty busy with the conference (and can only take a few days off from my full-time job), there’s not much time for socializing. I think I’ll budget $250 or $300, and that’s being pretty generous.

Toronto is a great city, and I’m so excited to be back. There are plenty of people I can’t wait to meet, and old friends I’m excited to see again. :) Two months to go!

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