Saturday, September 8, 2012

A Kind Gesture ... A Free Coffee ... Reminded Me to 'Pay it Forward'.

Last weekend, I was waiting for a group from London to pick me up so I could join in on canvassing relative to the Kitchener-Waterloo By-election.  I got to the nearby truck stop a little early and had not yet gulped down my morning java.  I decided to grab one from the nearby coffee machine.  I did stress a little as I had to resort to the little 'plastic thingies' full of cream, generally a no no in my life as it is a 'one time use' item.  But I figured it was a concession I would make to ensure my brain was remotely functional for the door to door knocking that would ensue over the next several hours.  

Sometimes, it is the little gestures that become the golden moments of our day.  And this one of which I will speak became a light bulb moment for a blog topic.   After humming and hawing about whether to break down and get a coffee at all and then carefully considering my selection options (decisions, decisions), I finally settled on one and hit the pour button.  After putting on the finishing touches, I walked over to the Counter Attendant and asked how much 'the damage' would be.  

The commentary that follows is somewhat paraphrased as I DO NOT have a photographic memory, but I do have a good memory for friendly service experiences.  She looked at me without blinking an eye and said, "Oh don't worry about it; no charge."   I was pleasantly surprised but couldn't let it go at first.  It just didn't feel 'right' somehow.  I said, "I owe you something!" as I got out my wallet.  After all, she must have known I did not purchase gas, and I expressed my worry she could get in trouble.  After all, what is free in this day and age?  Maybe a smile, if we are lucky?   

I was not sure if this was a store custom or just a 'moment in time', but either way, I was impressed and it did leave a positive mark upon me.  She still declined payment, but I ended up shoving five dimes at her (a tip) just for being so danged nice and to make myself feel better.  I walked out into the sun, at which time an idea struck me and I walked back in and asked her if it was okay to write a blog post and use her name and association. (Remember, I did not want to get the gal in trouble.) She said, "No problem.".  So, 'Thank you, Shelby.  This one is for you!"  

As I am a Career Consultant, the moment reminded me that it is often the small courtesies offered 'along with standard service' that bring people back as repeat clientele.  This positive 'moment in time' will definitely ensure they receive my business in future.  Shelby is a great 'window to their services'. 

Have you watched the movie 'Pay it Forward'?  It is a heart-warming and heart-wrenching movie about the power of showing kindness to others, including strangers.  I warn you, it has a sad but powerful ending.  

I have already ensured I 'Paid it Forward' to others following my free coffee.  After being asked to run a job search readiness workshop for co-op students at a local high school and realizing there might be an easier strategy to prepare the students to write their resumes within a required short time-frame, I created and forwarded a workable template with the desired formatting in place, and loaded it with lots of tips for students.  Yes it was on my own time and dime, but it felt good and I suspected it would make life easier for both students and teachers.  I think it may be adopted, if the original email response is an indication.  Either way though, I am glad I made the effort.

Now I ask of each of you ... think of the times when others have offered a kindness to you.  Have you returned the favour by extending a courtesy or kindness to others?   It is an ongoing and synergistic opportunity that can be continually perpetuated amongst those in society, making society a better place overall. 

I think I will create a nice thank you letter or card for Shelby.  The impulsive monetary tip was okay, but she really did leave a very positive impression on me and I want her to know that.  To REALLY know that, I mean.  And again, thinking as a Career Consultant ...Shelby can add a thank you letter or card to her portfolio, whereas five dimes may be a bit harder to explain!   Mind you, if the loose change was accompanied by a letter or card which supports the existence of the coins within a portfolio (as well as this post!), it might become a great story for an interview. 

"Thank you Shelby for 'making my day'." 

Do check out my other blog topics while on here!  I love writing about people and what inspires them.  I also discuss various career and employee development topics, usually with a dash of humour or a grain of salt! I welcome you to join me, and to leave a comment!

Catherine Stewart-Mott; Forward Momentum Services

Friday, September 7, 2012

Go Glendale Co-op Students ... Go!

I spent a couple of days at Glendale High School (as a representative of a local agency) in an attempt to help students understand how to prepare resumes and cover letters for their upcoming co-op placements.  I remember a placement I experienced years ago (and I do mean years ago!) at the Ingersoll Times.  I was a student at Ingersoll District Collegiate Institute.  I was very shy so it was a bit of an ordeal; I apparently survived although memories are somewhat faint.  Could that possibly mean I subconsciously blocked out a whack of traumatic memories?  Nah!  I think I just took the experience for granted like so many students have done over the years!  I mostly remember that I was asked to write an article for the local paper.  Oddly, I can't recall the topic yet remember being fascinated to see it in print.  Apparently I also did not think it was an important enough experience to retain a keepsake copy.  Hmm, maybe there is an old microfiche version out there I could scrounge up. 
It is regretful the things we take for granted.  Students ... put your utmost into landing a placement, and do your best while there.  In the two classes to which I was assigned, there was a lot of diversity.  First, there was a wide range of interest relative to desired job placements, but there was also a range of interest in terms of the topics covered, namely resumes and cover letters.  The energy level was also diverse.  Some had serious and at times entertaining 'get up and go'.  I occasionally looked at the ceiling in case I had to scrape someone off.  Others perhaps needed a bit of a fuel boost to generate some much needed 'get up and go'.  I hope the chocolate bars helped! 
I can sympathize with the low fuel crew.  After all, it was only the second and third day of the new school year.  I can imagine the excruciating physical and emotional pain you endured as a shrill alarm clock or (shrill) parent woke you from a sound sleep, bringing you back to reality after a blissful but woefully short summer hiatus. Life is not fair, is it?
Double-check your materials before sending!
But ... we must shake it off and get down to business!  Or at least that is the implied message to the students.  As I write this ... which is one day following the two day session ... each student should have submitted a rough resume draft for teacher feedback and had it returned once or maybe even twice.  In the aftermath, are you smiling the happy face or kicking yourself in the proverbial butt?
I hope each of you remembered the importance of assuring your 'Highlight' section is targeted to your desired goal, and that it is a blend of hard and soft skills.  And even if some of you did not feel that active yourselves, you should know to use 'active verbs' when describing your job duties!   And my goodness, the incessant verbal warnings you endured from both myself and your teachers.
"Absolutely no typos, no grammatical errors, and no spelling errors allowed!  None, Nilch, Not-a-One!"  : ) 
I fear this may have led to some of you having terribly traumatic nightmares.  Who could blame you?  My sincere apologies.
Hopefully you created a new email address if yours looked something like this:, or this:  Let's face it; such emails are not the wisest move when job searching.  Stick with your name!  Yes, it is bit boring but go with formality here, even if you have to add a number or two after your name to have the address 'stick'!  Keep this email address specifically for job search purposes.
And you should of course recall that a cover letter is considered an important step.  Don't forget that little tidbit your teacher said regarding cover letters ... two spaces after a period and one after a comma!  Crafting a well written thank you letter following an interview can also help seal the deal, or at least it can help tip the scales in your favour when all else is equal with other candidates!  (And notice 'favour' has a 'u' in it!)  Are you in the habit of using Canadian spelling or American spelling?  "Maybe you should stick to Canadian, eh?" 
Once you land in your respective placements, embrace, enjoy and 'remember' the moment.  I wish I had better recollection.  Maybe have some photos snapped so you can develop or enhance your portfolio.  Don't forget to see if an employer will oblige you with a letter of reference.  Don't count in it, but it never hurts to ask!  Keep in mind though, and this is VERY IMPORTANT, "Will you deserve a letter of reference?"  In other words, try your utmost to demonstrate a great work ethic as to performing your duties and when interacting with those around you. 

It was great chatting with your respective classes.  Sorry for revving up the speed of the sessions, but given a fog day delay, a welcome assembly, placement updates, intercom announcements, etc. were tossed into the mix, well ... one must go with the flow!  Such is life. 
Do not hesitate to keep me posted as to how your placements are coming along.  I would love to be a fly on the wall but since that is not feasible, feel free to buzz on down to my blog!  Best of luck to each and every one of you!
Do check out my other blog topics while on here!  I love writing about people and what inspires them.  I also discuss various career and employee development topics, usually with a dash of humour or a grain of salt! I welcome you to join me, and to leave a comment!

P.S ... There is a new one for Glendale School, from Feb, 2014.  You can find it here:

Catherine Stewart-Mott; Forward Momentum Services

Monday, September 3, 2012

Pushing Beyond Our Perceived Limits

Saturday was an interesting day for me, and what I suspect was an exhausting albeit satisfying day for others.  I saw a mix of sheer determination and for many, the rewarding outcome of their conscientious and careful planning.  People emerged from open water and regained their footing on a sandy incline.  In what seemed like a never-ending stream of arms and legs, people trekked towards a transition station where the organized chaos of hundreds of bikes awaited.  Wet suits were shucked and shoes slipped on. Off they went yet again, only to emerge somewhat later to abandon their bikes and put foot to pavement.  

These swimmers ... turned bikers ... turned runners are part of the growing triathlon phenomenon.  In this case, a ‘Try a Tri’ which involved 375 metres of swimming, 10 kms of biking, and 2.5 kms of running.  These folks chose to embark upon a new experience; many wanted to test or expand their limits.  And most achieved their goals. 

What impressed me perhaps the most was the amazing diversity of those involved.  I saw rather young participants, perhaps preteens, and I learned one contestant was over 80.  All age groups were liberally represented, as were a mix of male and female participants. People came in all shapes and sizes, including tall and short, as well as some whose physiques were finely chiselled and some whose flesh jiggled. 
The camaraderie or 'network of support' that apparently develops among those within the sport is also notable, as many undertake training programs to better understand and more effectively and efficiently undertake this unique cross-training sport.  Or even if they prepare on their own or with a friend or two, they make new friends along the way! 
As I watched or chatted with some of them before or after their races, I realized many wanted to push what they may have assumed were their previous limits.  Many expressed interest in growing within the sport by taking on longer triathlons in future. I got rather pumped at what I saw, and envisioned myself in my first ‘Try a Tri’.  I was a good runner in my day and I still bike regularly.  But then a little naysayer on my shoulder whispered in my ear, “I bet I am not a good enough swimmer, especially since it is in open water!"  I get a little nervous in open water, to be honest.  Right away, I sensed myself constructing a barrier, a ‘limit’, you might say.  This is something many of us do. Time to give myself a gentle kick in the butt!
And as it is not always easy to separate recreation and work, it occurred to me on my way home that I tell job seekers and transitioners to push beyond their own comfort limits.  How??? By testing the hidden job market through strategies such as informational interviews, social media networking, and putting foot to pavement to meet new people.  I even describe such efforts as creating a ‘wave effect’, meaning that if you cast a stone in water, the impact will create ripples or waves of influence beyond the point of contact.  The larger the stone, the more notable are the waves formed. But are we afraid of the waves?
In this challenging job search market, we need to do more than simply tread water in a stationary position, meaning a reliance upon traditional job search approaches.  We need to create and embracfe a wave effect!  I always figured I could swim ‘okay’ as I swam many lengths in an inground pool, but when hitting open waters, I admittedly learned it was not quite the same experience!  So I too will need to ‘test and push my perceived limits’ if I decide to ‘Try a Tri’, by embracing those waves head on! 

Have you ‘tested the limits’ relative to your job search in past or present, or figuratively speaking, have you been one to simply tread water or rely on the cement boundaries of a swimming pool?  Or perhaps you are fearful of water altogether.  It is a very similar concept relative to job searching.  We need to test new waters and push our limits. 
My challenge to you?  Embark upon a ‘Try-a-Tri' theme project, but think job search initiatives instead of swimming, biking and running.  Perhaps you could start by establishing a wider network of contacts, then transitioning to a another challenge such as joining a Toastmasters' group in your area to hone your communication and presentation skills.  Then top it off with a third leg within your journey.  Perhaps set up a few informational interviews to further test the waters.   What you are doing is proactively and consciously creating a ripple or wave effect in your job search journey; you are indeed being asked to test the waters and push your limits. Too often we act randomly rather than with conscious purpose.  We need to do the latter!

Just like the ‘Try a Tri’ athletes, you too can feel the intrinsic reward of your planned efforts culminating in success.

Do check out my other blog topics while on here!  I love writing about people and what inspires them.  I also discuss various career and employee development topics, usually with a dash of humour or a grain of salt! I welcome you to join me, and to leave a comment!

Catherine Stewart-Mott; Forward Momentum Services

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Our Attitudes, Actions & Behaviours Can 'Become Us'.

You are centre stage ... Lights, Camera, Action! (Or Reaction?) 

Imagine this scenario.  When prompted by another person in this seemingly interactive dynamic, you speak.  You have done your part.  But it is with, in turns, a monotone that signifies your disinterest, and a bitterness that exemplifies your attitude that the world is unfair.  Your arms are crossed upon your chest.  You appear to be bracing yourself against the cold; to others, you appear closed to the world around you.  The baseball cap adorning your head casts a broad shadow over your eyes, which some would suggest are the windows to your soul.  You are leaning away, seemingly deliberate in your determination to increase the distance between you.

But this is not a stage performance; it is an interview.  Perhaps my example is a little over the top in terms of the bad signals displayed, but sometimes, we are not sufficiently aware of how our body language and voice can raise red flags within the minds of others.  Sometimes life is tough; we may choose to take it out on those around us, consciously or unconsciously.  Before we know it, especially during life's 'extended' down moments, we may start to integrate behaviours and attitudes that are counter-productive to our job search, employment success, and overall well-being.   We literally perpetuate and feed upon negativism until it 'becomes us'.

They say it can take, roughly speaking, from a month to several months to break away from or form a habit, either good or bad.  So the more we nourish negative behaviour over time, we are at risk of it becoming habitual within our lives.  Even if we are feeling down, a more constructive approach would be to feed positivity, even if at first we don't necessarily feel upbeat.  Flash a smile. Laugh a little. Sit up straight. Loose the hat. Flex your voice tone.  It may start out feeling rather like a role play, but after a while, this too may 'become us'.  And it is certainly much more attractive to those with whom we interact.

A philosophical quote by Mahatma Ghandi expresses this rationale in a beautiful way:

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”

Do you see the glass as half empty or half full?  This is a common phrase; perhaps even an overused phrase.  But it is still a phrase with merit, and perhaps that is why it has withstood the test of time.  During your networking endeavours, in an interview, and on the job, ensure your glass is at least half full, and of course, that may encourage others to top it to the brim upon communicating with you. Better though is if you work on filling it to the brim yourself!  Create your own destiny with the help of others; but don't wait for or expect others to do it for you!

Do check out my other blog topics while on here!  I love writing about people and what inspires them.  I also discuss various career and employee development topics, usually with a dash of humour or a grain of salt! I welcome you to join me, and to leave a comment!

Catherine Stewart-Mott; Forward Momentum Services

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Cast your Net'Work'.

Are you a natural networker?  Some people who consider themselves to be Chatty Cathy's (pardon the pun on my own name!) automatically assume this makes them great networkers as well!  Not so in the real world, where 'how and why' you say things is as important as the fact that you are opening your mouth and letting sounds come out.  

Networking is in fact an art of sorts.  It requires confidence and creativity, as well as determination and design. Networking is communicating with a purpose.  Generally, the purpose should be to develop relationships,  the more the better, with some being more powerful than others, of course. 

Imagine dropping a stone in water.  You will see a ripple effect as the impact of the stone hitting the water creates outward waves.  This is what you are trying to create with networking, except of course, the waves are people rather than ripples in water.  

Why not do a some online research and find out a little more about networking, all on your own?  Google terms such as networking pdf, networking PPT's, networking you-tube, networking articles, networking quizzes, so on and so forth.  It is rather amazing the diversity of information out there at your disposal; you just need to take the time to tap into it. That said, be mindful that not all sources of information are equally relevant, reliable and accurate, so do your research, compare your results, and look for patterns to help you think more critically about the 'resources' you do encounter.  

For me, networking is relatively natural, but it is still something I realize has to be done with care and thought.  Sometimes, 'chatty Cathy's can speak impulsively and off the tip of their tongues, and that is not necessarily in one's best interests, so learn to network with skill and style so you don't end up with your foot in your mouth!  

And in doing so, maybe you will reel in a job or some great leads!  

All the power to you as you cast your 'network'.  Remember, developing networks is an investment ... you are developing 'social capital', and you want to keep 'investing so the well does not run dry.

Do check out my other blog topics while on here!  I love writing about people and what inspires them.  I also discuss various career and employee development topics, usually with a dash of humour or a grain of salt! I welcome you to join me, and to leave a comment!

Catherine Stewart-Mott; Forward Momentum Services

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Add Some Latitude to your Attitude

All too often, our judgment, self esteem, and perception of ourselves (and of others) becomes clouded by struggles we have faced in life.  Emotional 'static' can start interfering with us moving beyond an issue.  A job loss can be one such struggle.  In Western society, we tend to place considerable emphasis on our 'working life' roles.  Sometimes, before we know it, we smile less often, show frustration more often,  and perhaps start seeing the world through a mirky lense.  Yet the shift can be something of which we are not entirely aware and for which we have no conscious plan to circumvent the subtle or obvious downhill slide. 

Try your best to maintain a positive focus each and every day, even if at first it feels a bit robotic, which it might.  By creating rituals in your day (positive and practical ones that is!), you are more likely to prevent yourself from heading towards a slippery slope of depression or apathy, for instance.  So keep your 'ship's sails' true and strong, so you head towards shore rather than an undertow.

A Few Tidbits to Consider:  
  • Make sure your day and week are planned out somewhat so that you have a framework of daily and weekly action plans; use something concrete such as electronic or paper calendars and schedulers to keep you on track.
  • Create and refresh a daily to do list.  Make it realistic, but also make it slightly challenging.  Cross them off as you get to them.  Anything you don't accomplish, reassess and reintegrate it into the next day. More seems to get done when you can visualize and manage clear and timely objectives. And stick 'to do it'. 
  • Treat and reward yourself for your efforts.  It may be time with friends, your favourite flavoured ice cream on a hot summer's day, or a walk within the peace and tranquility of a nearby trail system. Find what works 'for you'. 

Do check out my other blog topics while on here!  I love writing about people and what inspires them.  I also discuss various career and employee development topics, usually with a dash of humour or a grain of salt! I welcome you to join me, and to leave a comment!

Catherine Stewart-Mott; Forward Momentum Services

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

'Returning to the Past': Join a Local Food Revolution with Author Gord Hume

Oh my.  So many jobs seem to have gone 'way of the wind'.  Local food production and sourcing is definitely one of those challenges. It is a shame that all too often, we are busy more with food importing rather than exporting.  This is sad from both an economic perspective, but also from a personal lifestyle perspective. Perhaps you will be interested in hearing a knowledgeable gentleman and author speak about the critical importance of local food production, and how we can fit into the equation. Here are some details; I urge you to sign up as soon as possible for this event, for it is free and seating is limited.  : ) 

Author Gord Hume Speaks on “The Local Food Revolution”

The Local Food Revolution
Tuesday, March 6th 7:00pm
Quality Hotel & Suites
580 Bruin Boulevard, Woodstock ON
RSVP: Tourism Oxford
519-539-9800 x 3355 or 1-866-801-7368

The local food revolution is changing how people think about nutrition, agriculture, the local economy, the health of our children and how municipalities must play a critical role in changing how we design our cities, embrace local food production and deal with
waste. Gord Hume’s very topical speech will outline critical elements of the responsibility of local communities in this complex food chain, what we can all do to improve the local food opportunities, and why the health of our citizens and our community rests in our hands.”

Do check out my other blog topics while on here!  I love writing about people and what inspires them.  I also discuss various career and employee development topics, usually with a dash of humour or a grain of salt! I welcome you to join me, and to leave a comment!

Catherine Stewart-Mott; Forward Momentum Services

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Crabby Old Man: Poem - Very Touching

I did not write this; rather, I came across it on Facebook and thought it was so touching with an excellent message that I wanted to share it here on my blog.

When an old man died in the geriatric ward of a nursing home in North Platte, Nebraska, it was believed that he had nothing left of any value.

Later, when the nurses were going through his meager possessions, They found this poem . Its quality and content so impressed the staff that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital.

One nurse took her copy to Missouri . The old man's sole bequest to posterity has since appeared in the Christmas edition of the News Magazine of the St. Louis Association for Mental Health.. A slide presentation has also been made based on his simple, but eloquent, poem.

And this little old man, with nothing left to give to the world, is now the author of this 'anonymous' poem winging across the Internet.

Crabby Old Man

What do you see nurses? . . What do you see?
What are you thinking . . . . . when you're looking at me?
A crabby old man, . ... .. not very wise,
Uncertain of habit .. . .. . . . . . with faraway eyes?

Who dribbles his food . . .. . . . . and makes no reply .
When you say in a loud voice .. . . . .. 'I do wish you'd try!'
Who seems not to notice . ... . the things that you do .
And forever is losing . . . . .. . . . . . A sock or shoe?

Who, resisting or not . . . . . . .. . . lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding The long day to fill?
Is that what you're thinking? Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse . . . . . you're not looking at me .

I'll tell you who I am . As I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, . . . . . . as I eat at your will.
I'm a small child of Ten ... . . . . . with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters . . . ... . . . . . who love one another.

A young boy of Sixteen . . with wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now . . . .. .. . . a lover he'll meet..
A groom soon at Twenty . my heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows . . . . .. . that I promised to keep.

At Twenty-Five, now . . . . . . . . I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide . . . . And a secure happy home.
A man of Thirty . . . . .. . . . .. My young now grown fast,
Bound to each other . . . . . . . With ties that should last.

At Forty, my young sons .. . have grown and are gone,
But my woman's beside me . . . . . . . to see I don't mourn.
At Fifty, once more, babies play 'round my knee,
Again, we know children . . . . . . . My loved one and me.

Dark days are upon me . . my wife is now dead.
I look at the future ... . .. . . . . . . shudder with dread..
For my young are all rearing . . . . . .. young of their own.
And I think of the years . . .. and the love that I've known.

I'm now an old man . . . . . .. .. . . and nature is cruel.
Tis jest to make old age . . . . look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles .. . . . . . . grace and vigor, depart..
There is now a stone . . . .. . . . where I once had a heart.

But inside this old carcass . . a young guy still dwells,
And now and again . . . .. . . . my battered heart swells.
I remember the joys . . . . . . . . .. I remember the pain.
And I'm loving and living . . . . . .. . . . . life over again.

I think of the years, all too few . . . . . gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact . . . . . .. that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people . . . . . . . . open and see.
Not a crabby old man. Look closer . . . see ME!!

Remember this poem when you next meet an older person who you might brush aside without looking at the young soul within . . . . we will all, one day, be there, too!

Do check out my other blog topics while on here!  I love writing about people and what inspires them.  I also discuss various career and employee development topics, usually with a dash of humour or a grain of salt! I welcome you to join me, and to leave a comment!

Catherine Stewart-Mott; 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Volunteer With a Vision! Oxford Children's Water Festival

  • To be Held in Oxford County / May 2012. 

When does water, wisdom, well-being and goodwill go hand in hand?  Have you ever heard of a water festival? Hopefully the answer is yes!  There have been several held across the province over the years, and in May, a Children’s Water Festival is being hosted in Oxford County and will be located at Pittock Conservation Area (Woodstock).  Due to the thousands of students who will be bussed in over a three, or possibly four day period, there is a need and an opportunity for volunteers to assure the festival is its usual kick butt event.  

Volunteers are always of critical importance, and it is anticipated that over 100 will be needed for each day of the festival.  What better way to become involved in your community than to support an initiative meant to explore the importance of our water based resources, related ecosystems, as well as our interaction with and attitude about water?

Take a ‘peek inside’ the world of a water festival by checking out the attached video.  You will see and hear a synopsis of the experiential, interactive, educational and extraordinary 2009 water festival held in Oxford County (2009).  We are hoping this years will be even bigger!

Each activity is strategically designed to be 'curriculum based' and falls into one of of five programming categories, which include: 

  1. Water Conservation
  2. Water Protection
  3. Water Technology
  4. Water Science
  5. Water Attitude
If you should decide to volunteer, it is a win win situation!  Not only do you get an opportunity to be ‘showered’ with the laughter of youth and perhaps the splashing of water, but you will learn a lot yourself while contributing to your community and while gaining valuable volunteer experience.  Volunteer work (if you can really call it that in this case!) is a great addition to a resume, and it is an opportunity for you to explore new horizons.  After checking out the video as well as the link below which provides even more information, hopefully you will be ready to jump in either the shallow or deep end with us!  

Oxford Children's Water Festival  

If interested, and I hope you are, please send me an email.  I would be thrilled to hear from you, as will others on the organizing committee.

Catherine Stewart-Mott
Forward Momentum Services


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The 'ic'y Workplace.

This is just a little play on words about workplace cultures, or perhaps I should say play on  letters.  The letters as you might suspect from the Post Title are ic
Workplaces are often like a second home. Sometimes just as (or more) rewarding.  But sometimes, just as potentially dysfunctional.  We spend many hours a day, a week, a month, and a year at these 'second homes'  .... once individuals reach their complacent point or breaking point on the job, things can get dicey or spicy. This is about the time that the normally well tended and guarded inner emotions start to emerge  (i.e as aggressiveness or perhaps remain 'submerged' as passive-aggressiveness).  It is easy to become a victim of the 'ic' factor, and I suspect most of us have fallen into this trap. Not all of course, but more than enough. Hopefully, you are the final 'ic'.

or .............
Ideally, your workplace is terrific?

Catherine Stewart-Mott
Forward Momentum Services


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

THANK YOU!!! It Can Come In Many Shapes and Sizes!

Ah, what a nice night.  I love it when you get a nice thank you for your efforts.  And I can't resist a good deal. In this case, I happen to sit on an advisory committee for the City of Woodstock.  Tonight was a Wine and Cheese Thank You evening, with about 90 people scheduled to attend. It was held in a nice venue, meaning the local Woodstock Art Gallery. Some of us were dressed to the nines.  I don't get that opportunity much, so heck, out came the little black dress. Mind you, I wore it with black boots. Can't take the redneck out of the gal, I guess!

It was wonderful chowing down on a range of creatively prepared appetizers and sipping wine. At one point, I also ended up with a coffee in one hand and a glass of wine in the other.  Don't ask; perhaps the first glass of wine I gulped down earlier had something to do with my double sipping. Just kidding, ... I think.  

You know, the formal setting, all the networking I accomplished, and the wine and yum yums were wonderful, but I am also happy with small thank you gestures as well.  As long as they are sincere.  

So ... employers, volunteer leaders, etc.  Do you recognize the importance of assuring staff or those who volunteer for your organization or cause truly feel valued?  In our crazy and fast paced world, sometimes we forget the seeming 'small things', yet they can have a resounding (and positive) impact. A pat on the back, a helium balloon, a note of appreciation, a coffee card, a gift certificate, a happy face sticker on a completed project, a fortune cookie, or maybe a cupcake with a candle. 

When I was at Conestoga College, our manager brought in a little toy animal which laughed hysterically when you wound it up.  It was presented at a team meeting. It is one of my best memories, actually.  That and fart cushions, although the former was the gem.  We are adults, but it does not mean we can't be young at heart. Her gesture showed that she both understood and appreciated (and felt profound sympathy!) for the crazy work pace we had to endure at the height of the recession.  Even better (for me at least!), I did not have something to take home and dust, but it still felt like a creative acknowledgement of appreciation had been bestowed upon us.  (Thank you Kim M., since I plan to provide you with this link as my 'thank you'.)

So folks. The ideas can be endless, but nice is when the thank you takes into account the personality of the recipient. Sure, a big fat pay raise is always nice too, but that isn't always realistic. Especially if you are a volunteer but even in the paid workforce.  Unfortunately. : )

Pay it forward.  Make someone's day.  Make them smile.  


Catherine Stewart-Mott
Forward Momentum Services


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Cover Letter Done? Yes! (Well ... Maybe)

Whoa, pull back on the rains (or is that reigns?) 
  • Incorporated company info? Yes!  (Too many letters are written with no reference to company knowledge.) 
  • Job specific? Yes!  (If in response to a job posting, are you detailing qualifications you possess which relate to the company's identified needs?) 
  • Spell check done? Yes! (Well good for you, but read on.)
Wait a minute! A spell checker doesn't always catch everything, even when the 'red and green wiggly lines are gone'. Two common problems are spelling errors and wording misuse.  (Among others which often relate to content or formatting issues.)
  • Spelling related: WHIMIS versus WHMIS.  Do you know what the actual abbreviation stands for?  It is Workplace Hazardous Information Systems, but people often add in an extra 'I' near to the beginning as they think of it as a word rather than an abbreviation, and consequently spell it 'like it sounds'.
  • Word misuse: ensure versus insure; their versus there versus they're; It's versus Its; your versus you're.  (Of course, it depends upon the context of your sentence as to which word is correct in each situation!)
Such goof ups can be definite turnoffs for the employer crowd.   So learn your weakness 'hot spots' and get to work on them.  And have a professional glance over your final product(s).  It might be worth a few dollars for a quick editing critique.
Like in many life circumstances, some errors can have costly or perhaps at times embarrassing results.  (See photo ... which should read 'pea', I suspect; It did bring about a chuckle, mind you)  But with cover letters, which often serve as a first window to who you are and what you can offer, mistakes are not necessarily regarded as a laughing matter. (or the laughter might be at your expense!

Catherine Stewart-Mott
Forward Momentum Services


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Quitting a Job and EI. Yes, No or Maybe So???

I recently assisted a lovely (both inside and out!) young lady with developing a resume.  We are not done yet, but she is working hard at making some suggested adaptations which will result in a combination style resume and a job redirect.  She wants to get back to work as quickly as she can.  She hates having too much time on her hands, and is solely responsible for paying a mortgage.  In first meeting with my client, I assumed it was a layoff.  In fact, I learned that she is seeking a new role due to a high level of stress faced at her last job, and the related  burnout and tensions she endured.

I routinely asked her if she had applied for EI and she indicated she had not; she assumed that quitting the job meant she would not be considered.  I then asked if she would mind sharing her story.  Her job description and duties had morphed with time.  As other people quit or were laid off, those who remained had to absorb the extra workload. There were constant innuendos about further layoffs.  There was a significant decrease in staff morale.  There was more criticism of work quality, but minimal measures of how to resolve the challenges. The result? Many days she came home only to burst into tears, after having 'held it together' each day.  I asked if she had communicated her concerns with her employer and her doctor.  With the former, yes ... attempts had been made.  With the latter, apparently no unfortunately.  She indicated that she did not want to be perceived as a complainer as that was not her style.  Oh my, have I heard that before.  Sometimes, that "I am strong" motto come back to bite one in the butt.

Yes, she had spoken with her employer on numerous occasions, but had not recorded details.  A first but common no no. To her surprise, I urged her to apply for Employment Insurance regardless, and to take the time in advance of doing so to think carefully and conscientiously about what to write.  Now that she is not embroiled in the situation, sometimes it is easier as you have a clearer 'rear view mirror' perspective.  I also learned she still needed her Record of Employment, so she is off taking care of that asap. This of course is the short version. 

Even though there were likely many steps she could and should have taken before throwing in the towel, I know this type of situation happens all too often in a high stressed work world.  We are human and often react 'in kind'.   And I am sure the people 'up there' looking at those EI applications know it as well.  And if you have never been down that road, hindsight can hurt. We generally don't look for an instruction manual as to how to leave a job that is getting the better of us.  When we are embroiled in it, we can at times act impulsively or dare I say it, emotionally. So why apply if we are going to be denied anyway? 

Depending on the overall circumstances of each situation and most likely depending upon how you explain it, and who receives the EI application (they are human too), such EI applications are not always approved.  But I have seen people who thought they did not stand a chance in you-know-where end up collecting an EI claim. If not in an initial application, then during the appeal process.  Of course, not always. It is the real world after all.  It is my hope that my client 'lucks out'.  Mind you, it is not all luck, as it takes conscientious effort to explain such circumstances in a way that some stranger can relate.  But if she does not try, she will not know.And many just don't try.

In closing, It may be after the fact, but I suggested she speak with her doctor.  I urged her to try, as best she could, to detail events, discussions, dates, etc. that reflect circumstances she endured at her last place of employment. I recommended that she NOT come out with 'pen swinging' as too many people do in their paperwork, but rather she should show professionalism in her written approach, as well as sincerity. And of course, I wished her luck and asked for an update.  I am crossing my fingers it is positive one.  
Catherine Stewart-Mott

Forward Momentum Services