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You left your job? In this economy?!

I wasn’t thinking about the state of the economy when I handed in my resignation letter in June. Yes, I had heard about the economic woes, but it felt too abstract for me to worry about it. And I kept hearing about how the Canadian economy was better than other western economies so how bad could it be?

From what I can gather from googling, Canadian employment growth has stalled due to economic uncertainty; despite that, Canada holds the highest employment rate among G7 nations. Also, the (NEET) percentage of youth under 30 who are unemployed and actively looking for work or are not in the labour force in Canada was calculated at 13.3% – which is supposedly low compared to other G7 nations. Our unemployment rate currently sits at around 7.4% (compared to 5.9% (’07), 6.2% (’08), 8.3% (’09), 8.0% (’10), and 7.1% (’11) of Septembers past). I dunno. Whatever.

So naturally everyone wants to know why I left my job. Why did I leave my job?

On an early morning in June, working from my neighbourhood Starbucks, I received an email request to reschedule yet another work meeting. What would normally seem like a mundane request felt like someone had stuck out their leg in my path to purposely make me fall – making all things I was juggling in my hands scatter to the ground in the process. I had to put down my latte because I was physically shaking so hard. Something inside of me snapped. The proverbial breaking of the camel’s back.

I left because my job no longer felt gratifying. Because there was no longer room in my life for me. Because my life at the time felt like it was swallowing me whole. Because I felt like my work had become my life – which I swore to myself I would never do. And a part of me left because people were telling me I shouldn’t.

I felt that the only way to understand and reassess my life was to step out of it. I was spending so much of my waking hours working and what hours I had left were dedicated to putting out other fires existing in my life. I didn’t recognize my life and I didn’t like what I was seeing and I had no time to evaluate how to rectify the situation.

I needed to breathe. That’s why I quit.

The biggest misconception that has arisen from my resignation is the assumption that I am searching for a “dream job”. What is a dream job anyway?  To me a dream job is a job that you want to do rather than need to do. Since most people have needs – namely food, shelter and/or clothing – that are contingent on holding a job, most people cannot afford to hold a dream job. Anything you enjoy doing that much – something that is that dreamy – no longer qualifies as work. It’s a hobby.

Another misconception, which is related to the dream job assumption, is that I am naive and childish to think that a job can enjoyable; since nobody likes their job, to leave a job because you don’t like it is foolish. Well, there was a time when I did like my job so I know it is possible to enjoy what one does for a living. And I feel sorry for those who can leave their despised job but choose not to because they associate misery-on-the-job with wearing big-girl pants. Most of us have choices. My choice is to not live the one life I have spending most of it in misery.

Some of us don’t have choices. Some of us have economic, societal, or other institutional barriers that prevent us from reaching our potential. For obstacles that can be overcome, some people have larger obstacles in their path than others. Some of you reading this may not agree with these statements. For those who do not agree, chances are that you have not walked in the shoes of those with the barriers I speak of. In any case, I recognize that not everyone has the luxury of leaving their job without major repercussions. I would never suggest or recommend leaving a job one doesn’t enjoy, especially without having a new job secured, to everyone.

In my instance, I feel it made sense to leave my job and my rental apartment. I had some money saved, I had a network of family to fall back on, and friends who I could rely on. Not everyone has that.

I left my job in order to find an ideal situation. I suspect that “situation” will evolve as my life does. For the short-term, it means holding a job in a locale that is conducive to achieving new personal goals I have. I’d disclose them all but then the goals wouldn’t be as personal anymore.

The hardest people to explain this to are potential employers. How do I explain why I left my job? There really isn’t a way without sounding long-winded or finicky (possibly much like this blog post). I’ve settled for providing half-truths now since a lot of people do not understand why anyone would choose unemployment over employment – especially in this economy. One interviewer actually asked me, “You know the economy is bad, right?”. I grinned when I answered, “Yep!”. Not surprisingly, I haven’t heard from her since.

Anyway, the search for a new job continues. I have dabbled in some temp work which has helped with income and has been a welcome break from all the job board combing.  My new HR Management course has reintroduced me to student life: essays, tests, and exams – oh my! And I have replaced working in Starbucks with studying at my local Tim Hortons.

I’ll admit two things:

  1. It’s not the best time to be looking for a new job.
  2. I miss Grande Soy Chai Tea Lattes.

But I have no regrets. Not yet anyway.

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Posted by on October 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Welcome! Bienvenue!: Postscript

This morning – ahead of writing a new original post – I decided to read through my previous entries. The tone of my posts have definitely fluctuated and there will likely be no exception in future posts; the road of unemployment is no doubt a winding and bumpy ride.

In rereading my first post, Welcome! Bienvenue!, it is clear that I was high on optimism and had not really placed Toronto in context with the rest of the other cities I had listed.

For instance, I stated that “as far as I can tell it’s fairly easy to land a work visa for the US”. I have since done more research. Some of my findings and comments can now be found under my Stuff page, here.

Another thing that struck me about my first post was that I claimed that the economy here in Toronto is good. What is probably more accurate is that the Canadian economy, in comparison to others, is not bad – but it’s definitely not great. Anyone currently looking for employment here in Canada can tell you that.

This post not only serves as a postscript for my first post but as a preface for my next post – about looking for work in “this” economy. More to come.

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2012 in Applying for Jobs, Relocation

 

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Where am I going?

As anal as I am about planning and details (I just finished drafting a 4-day itinerary of things to do, hour-by-hour, during my upcoming Chicago trip), I never really came up with a plan for my life.

I’ve been applying for a slew of jobs so interviews will likely (hopefully) follow. And there is one interview question that I’ve always loathed because I never knew how to answer it:

Where do you see yourself in five years?

My first thought is always “What the f*** are you talking about?”, closely followed by “How the heck should I know?”. My actual response is usually “To be honest, I don’t know. I never plan my life that far in advance. What I do know is that five years from now, I want to have gained more skills and competency in my job, enjoy what I am doing, and know that I am of value to the company”. I always worried that my response demonstrated a lack of ambition, but it the only way I can think of answering the stupid question.

Well… I have a plan. At least I think I do. Along with all the job hunting I’ve been doing, I’ve been weighing a bunch of options. At first I was overwhelmed – working from morning-to-night combing and searching for answers regarding career changing, continued education, visas, job markets, etc. For someone without a job, I’ve been pulling a lot of hours! Anyway, I think I finally have something:

My 3-Year Plan

  • Now-Feb 2013: Work part-time or temporarily here in Canada; start part-time HR certificate course
  • Jan 2013: Apply for UK visa
  • Mar 2013: Work in London; continue HR course online; learn German
  • July 2014: Get TESOL/TESL certification; apply for German visa
  • Sep 2014: Teach Business English in Germany
  • Sep 2015: Return to Canada; graduate from HR certificate course; prep for HKE exam

It’s not a perfect plan but it’s a plan. At least I have a sense of direction – which is a far cry from where I was weeks prior.

I moved out of my apartment the last week of June. The following week I vacated my items from the cubicle I had been occupying for four years. After I leaving my job, in early July, I felt restless. Not to the point where I was losing sleep but I kept wanting to move or do something. I thought jogging would do the trick but it didn’t.

A couple of weeks later my family went down to the Caribbean for a family reunion. We landed and I kept staring at the mountain at the center of the island with this immediate incessant need to climb it. I didn’t pack the gear to do it so the next best thing to do was walk the hilly roads that snaked around and through the island.

The locals could tell I wasn’t one of them because I walked with speed and purpose; they knew they had a city girl in their midst. I’d walk and walk and walk, assured by them that it was impossible to get lost on such a small island; the road doesn’t end so you’ll always meet your destination. Except I didn’t have one. I just needed to walk it out. I’d walk from one town to another. One day I walked and walked until the road ended. The road ended. I was on top of a steep hill looking at the pavement stop sharply in front dense bush. It wasn’t a bad place to be lost – being on a hilltop overlooking a turquoise ocean – but I was tired from climbing and the sun was going down. So I sat for a few moments to catch my breath. And then I followed the same road back down the hill.

I didn’t have an epiphany in those few moments before heading back down, but there was a sense of calm as I descending down the hill. I knew I can always go back. If you know you have the possibility to return to where you came from – even if you’re not sure where you are at that moment – are you ever really truly lost?

I wonder if the reason I never made plans for my life – choosing instead to trust that life will take care of itself – was because I was afraid of failing and losing myself in the process. With this three-year plan, there is comfort in knowing that I can always go back. There is also a slightly sick exhilaration in knowing that I may fail. And if I do fail, I can do something else. I can choose my own adventure – like those books I loved when I as a kid!

Those books essentially illustrated the idea that life is about the choices we make and the subsequent path it can lead us down. Can I plan and make goals for the next three to five years? Sure. Do I know where I will be in three to five years? No, because nobody does. And that, my friends, is why that interview question is stupid.

I think I just need to walk it out a bit more. And Europe looks like a great place to do it.

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2012 in Relocation

 

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The Curriculum Vitae: Not Beating Around the Bush, eh?

The Curriculum Vitae: Not Beating Around the Bush, eh?

So it appears that when applying for jobs in Germany (and Europe in general), job applicants are expected to provide a curriculum vitae (better known as a CV). It’s like a resume, but different. In Germany, it’s called a lebenslauf.

It shouldn’t be a big deal but… it kind of is.

The biggest difference between a resume and a CV is that the latter requires the applicant to include a picture and personal information – and when I say personal, I mean information that would be illegal for a hiring employer to illicit during the recruitment process in Canada: age, sex/gender, marital/family status, citizenship, etc. I’ve even seen samples of the CV where the applicant lists the names of their children.

So… I’ve drafted a CV but I can’t help but wonder what bearing these insights into my personal life would have on me getting/not getting the position. Will my photo work in my favour, or against me? Will they see that I’m childless and think “Oh good, so she won’t mind working lots of overtime”?

Having said that, at least they’re not beating around the bush. They are admitting to having a discriminatory eye upfront rather than trying to pry the same kind of insights by asking roundabout questions during the interview process. If the German employer is not looking for someone like me then at least they’re not wasting both of our time going through the niceties of an interview that would go nowhere.

If anything, it’s not like one cannot pass judgement on resumes lacking personal details. If someone earned their high school diploma in 1992, does this not help imply (infer?) someone’s age? If someone has been employed and educated in Warsaw, is there not a big possibility that he/she is not a Canadian citizen?

I borrowed a book from the library: Unbeatable Resumes, by Tony Beshara. The book is okay; it has some good tips. I was somewhat disappointed though when I came upon this section addressing – what I’d like to call – textually-apparent minorities:

“If your name makes it obvious that you are of a member of a minority group or are foreign born, you may want to consider changing it for resume purposes only. Now, you probably will respond with horror: “Well, that’s discrimination! People shouldn’t decide on interviewing me based on my name.” You’re absolutely right! It is discrimination. All hiring is discriminatory. Some of it is legal, and some of it isn’t. But remember that you are trying to get job interviews, not change the world. If you’re uncomfortable doing this, don’t do it.”

I’ve seen coworkers disregard resumes that have crossed their desks based on the applicant’s name because it was “funny” looking, or took it to mean that the applicant couldn’t possibly be fluent in English – or that even if they were fluent, our customers/clients wouldn’t be able to get past their (assumed) foreign accent.

On the flip side, there is the instance when your English/Christian name awards you an interview – only to arrive for the interview and be informed that “the job has been taken” because they weren’t expecting you, racially speaking.

According to Beshara, “All hiring is discriminatory”. This is true. If it wasn’t, recruiters would place all resumes in a … big hat, close their eyes, and draw one from the bunch. The degree of discriminatory practices may vary, but it will happen: if not based on your resume, or CV, then based on your interview. It’s inevitable.

So is my hesitation of submitting a CV a reflection of the discriminatory practice or my assumptions/paranoia regarding the practice? In other words, is this anxiety about the curriculum vitae? Or is it about how I see myself in the eyes of others?

One thing is for sure: I am overanalyzing the s**t out of this.

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2012 in Applying for Jobs

 

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