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Sunday, September 18, 2016

2 quick but useful tips to communicate better when texting

Tip # 1 – Avoid ending messages with a period
The reason: text messages that end with a period are perceived to be less sincere than messages that do not, according to recent research by a team led by Celia Klin from Binghamton University. adds that ending a short text with a period implies that you’re being short with the person, as in such examples as “I’m fine.” or “got it thank you.”

Tip # 2 – Use exclamation marks
The reason: Klin’s team also found that a text response with an exclamation mark is interpreted as more, rather than less, sincere.

In general, when texting (or using other methods of computer-mediated communication), it’s important to be aware that conventional rules of punctuation often do not apply.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

On punching sharks and running a business like a military campaign

A 25-year-old California surfer once survived a great white shark attack by hitting the animal in the head repeatedly until it released him.  When the story broke in August 2012, I tweeted the link to my Generation-Y and Generation-Z followers (I wasn’t sure the others would be interested) with the caption:  “The moral of this story is that when ur pursuing an important goal u shd never give up, no matter how overwhelming the odds r against u.”

This memorable piece of shark lore puts me in mind of a conversation I had with an ex-military-commander-turned-company-CEO.  In my capacity as a recruiter at that time, I was interviewing him for an executive role in a printing company.  Because I wanted to give my client, the employer, as much information as possible about what it was really like to spend a working day with this person, I questioned him closely about his management style.  Here is what he told me:

“Sometimes in business, just as in military manoeuvres, you have three choices:  you can halt, you can retreat, or you can advance.  Usually my advice is to load, lock, and move forward.  Even if you’re outnumbered and surrounded, there’s still a possibility you can shoot through the enemy line and escape.”

This November 11th, Remembrance Day, I will be thinking about this distinguished corporate warrior and other courageous veterans.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

To Foreign Job Candidates Seeking Work In Canada

In my job as Managing Director of PrintLink, I am often asked by candidates who live and work in other countries if PrintLink can find them a job in Canada.
The answer is:  Over six years as a professional recruiter have taught me that it is impossible for a foreign candidate to obtain a job (or a job offer for immigraton purposes) from any of our client companies unless the candidate has first obtained legal authorization to work in Canada.  Moreover, PrintLink cannot assist foreign candidates with this process since we have no expertise in Canadian immigration. 
If these facts puzzle you, consider that PrintLink's client companies pay PrintLink a substantial fee (typically 20 percent of the starting salary) to expedite their job search and target only the most qualified candidates.  Clearly, foreign candidates with immigration complications and lack of local Canadian business experience do not fit into this business model.
For further reference, I can only offer candidates seeking to immigrate and work in Canada the following links I found at random that might help them commence their own research:

Outside the normal channels described on the above sites, the only other way I've heard of someone succeeding in crossing international boundaries in the job market efficiently is:
1.  Either work for or be married to someone who currently works for a multinational  corporation with a branch in your target location.
2.  Successfully apply for (or have your spouse successfully apply for) a transfer to your desired location.
3.  Then the corporation's legal department will expedite the necessary work authorizations for both spouses.

Otherwise, I don't know of any other quick fixes. 

However, I invite anyone who has additional constructive information for foreign candidates on obtaining a job in Canada to post it in the Comments section of this post, so then we’ll all know. 

Sorry I can't be of more help to people without work authorization who aspire to work in Canada.  I wish you better luck through other channels.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Start-up of You: Say good-bye to conventional career planning, hello to permanent beta

Reid Hoffman, cofounder and chairman of LinkedIn, has not only co-created the world’s biggest social-media platform for professional networking.  He has also defined a new paradigm for professional development and success which he articulates in the 2012 book he co-authored with Ben Casnocha called “The Start-up of You” (Crown Business).

The book explains that, with unemployment rampant, job competition fierce, the career escalator jammed at every level, and creative disruption shaking every industry, traditional job security is a thing of the past.  Instead, the tasks of job hunting and career development-whether for seasoned professionals or for recent graduates--have become perpetual works in progress, requiring an agile mental state and skills fostering a state of permanent beta or continuous personal growth.

Chapter 3 of The Start-Up Of You explains why the bestselling career book of all time, What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles, is asking the wrong question for today:

“When it comes to charting a career plan, what you should be asking yourself is whether your parachute can keep you aloft in changing conditions.  The unfortunate truth is that in today’s career landscape, your parachute—no matter its color—may be shredded and tattered.  And if it isn’t that way already, it could get that way at any time.”

Additionally, Mr. Hoffman and Mr. Casnocha point out that:

“In his first chapter, Parachute author Richard Bolles writes, ‘It is important, before you enter the job hunt, to decide exactly what you are looking for—whether you call it your passion, or your purpose in life, or your mission.  …  Passion first, job-hunt later.’  After four decades in print, this is still the accepted wisdom today.  You see similar advice all over.  Habit number two of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is, ‘Begin with the end in mind’:  you should produce a personal mission statement that puts your goals in focus.'”

“The primary message of these books (of which there are more than 50 million copies in circulation) and countless others is to listen to your heart and follow your passion.  Find your true north by filling out worksheets or engaging in deep, thoughtful introspection.  Once you’ve got a mission in mind, these books urge, you’re supposed to develop a long-term plan for fulfilling it.  You’re supposed to craft detailed, specific goals.  You’re urged to figure out who you are and where you want to be in ten years, and then work backward to develop a roadmap for getting there.”

While Mr. Hoffman and Mr. Casnocha concede that for various reasons it’s important to have worthy aspirations, to be passionate about something, and to invest for the long term, their criticism of Mr. Bolles’s, Dr. Covey’s, and similar approaches is that they presume the world is static, whereas in today’s job market exactly the opposite is true: 

“Conventional career planning can work under conditions of relative stability, but in times of uncertainty and rapid change, it is severely limiting, if not dangerous,” they warn.  “You will change.  The environment around you will change.  Your allies and competitors will change.”

Especially in an environment of such shifting uncertainty, Mr. Hoffman and Mr. Casnocha doubt the feasibility of the type of fixed, accurate self-knowledge that Mr. Bolles and Dr. Covey promote:  “It’s unwise, no matter your stage of life, to try to pinpoint a single dream around which your existence revolves.” 

Additionally, the co-authors point out the harsh reality that “just because your heart comes alive at a calling doesn’t mean someone will pay you to do it.  If you can’t find someone who wants to employ you to pursue your dream job, or if you can’t financially sustain yourself—that is, earn a salary that allows you to live the lifestyle you prefer—then trying to turn your passion into a career doesn’t really get you very far.”

Their book not only represents a significant shift in conventional thinking.  It also goes on to describe the alternative practical strategies they believe are necessary for success in today’s job market, using Silicon Valley entrepreneurs as role models.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

For a winning press release the proverbial 5 Ws (who, what, where, when, why) aren’t enough

Because I couldn’t quickly locate my files from when I taught Dealing with the Media at Niagara College’s Post-Graduate Public Relations Program, I am recording this blog post instead to answer a question that arose on LinkedIn yesterday and could conceivably arise again.

The context is that Deborah Corn of Print Media Centr posted information written by Marion Williams-Bennett on "Using PR to Grow Your Business--Start with a Press Release", which included the advice: 

When writing the release, you want to answer the questions – who, what, where, when and why. The most important of these questions is the why. Why should someone care about this news?

"For example, if you have acquired a new customer, your announcement can say:

"Acme Print and Marketing Services is pleased to announce that The Big Bank has chosen Acme to handle all of their print production and direct marketing communication needs.  The Big Bank is another example of Acme's expanding role as a leader in providing print and marketing to organizations in the financial services industry.

"The news is that The Big Bank has become a client; the story is that Acme is now becoming a go-to resource for the financial services industry."

My quick response to the above was:  "Caution: Besides the proverbial 5 Ws of journalism that Marion mentions (who, what, where, when & why), you also need to include how and how much? Otherwise, you risk omitting essential context that editors need in order to recognize why your release rates preferential treatment over all the others they reject."

Katherine Tattersfield, Online Marketing Director at, replied:  Victoria Gaitskell not exactly sure what you mean? Can you share a specific example? I write press releases regularly, and I'm always looking for ways to improve the copy. We're getting good results, but we can always do better.”
So here’s my expanded response, Katherine: 
To use a really quick, crude example, you might write in your release that (WHO) your company is (WHAT) holding a fundraising event (WHERE) at the Palazzo Hotel in Timbuktu (WHEN) on June 30, 2013 at 7 p.m. (WHY) to raise money to help a vulnerable group of people in your community, thus spotlighting your company as a superior corporate citizen.

But unless you add at least a few more qualifying HOW / HOW MUCH details—such as HOW you'll draw a crowd of donors with the unique and irresistible form of entertainment you’re offering at the event, or the specifics of HOW MUCH more the funds you raise will help the beneficiaries in contrast to the work of other charities, or HOW MUCH larger your fundraising target is than last year because of escalating need in your community--then how do you expect editors to figure out whether or not your news will actually be of use and interest to their readers?

Speaking personally, at least for myself and most of the other editors I know at printing trade publications, both editors and their readers have had it up to here with daily barrages of short, vague, routine, self-serving marketing spiels issued by corporate marketing departments. So while just following the 5 Ws might help you to produce a formally correct press release, it isn’t enough to help you create one that’s dynamic enough to earn you the media coverage you crave. 

Odds are that only experienced professional writers know how to cram as much information as I’m suggesting into a release that will still be interesting, newsworthy, and short enough to grab an editor’s attention--because length seriously matters as much as content, angle, and style.  (Unfortunately lack of time and space prevents me from discussing these other considerations here.)

Generally speaking, to obtain the best results, the task of writing effective press releases should probably be left to experts, because when it comes to media production, no one on either end of a press release can afford the time to futz around.

That's also why it's not just commendable but also a really practical idea to hone your press-release-writing skills as much as you can.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Second thoughts on LinkedIn Endorsements + 7 ways to get more of them

Further to my post of 4 January 2013, my sole reason for seriously rethinking the viability of LinkedIn Endorsements at this stage of the game comes from career coach Carol Ross, who points out that their special utility lies in enabling you to conduct your own market research about  your personal brand . 

From her astute observation it also follows that:
  • The skills and expertise you list on your profile should not necessarily reflect the things you’re competent at but rather the things you want to do more of.
  • You should not accept or hide endorsements that aren’t for skills and expertise you are interested in developing in your next job.
  • If people aren’t endorsing you for the skills and expertise you want to be known for, you need to do a better job of promoting these abilities via work interactions and social media.
  • You should consider tweaking your profile so your favourite, most endorsed skills appear prominently in wording that resonates with your target audience. 

Ms. Ross also notes three further positive applications worth trying:
  1. Using endorsements as a basis for rekindling former relationships or improving current ones by giving you a pretext to communicate with contacts after the fact.
  2. Being prompted by endorsements to request or provide more helpful, meaningful personalized recommendations instead.
  3. Capitalizing on LinkedIn’s referrals to discussion groups, job openings, and employers in your field of interest, as well as top professionals, whose skill sets can help you adjust your own profile to be more competitive.
All these positives have given me sufficient inducement to start dabbling cautiously with making endorsements--but only in selected cases where I feel qualified by first-hand experience to do so—although I’m encountering all the same reservations as many of the system’s other critics; e.g.:
  • It encourages people to give endorsements too freely without cause.
  • It imposes auto-generated skills on users who don’t add them themselves.
  • It only proposes a limited number of your connections for you to endorse at the expense of other members of your network.
  • It encourages you to endorse multiple skills at once, but not necessarily the ones you want to endorse.

Even Web recruiter Tony Restell, whose cynicism is based on the belief that LinkedIn has designed its endorsement system in an incompetent and self-serving way, admits it has the potential to impact your professional life and job search quite extensively.  For him, the problem largely boils down to the fact that it’s so easy for LinkedIn members to attract a disproportionate number of endorsements from their network using the following measures.  (But those who think it’s fun to accumulate as many of these notches in their belts as possible might consider trying any of these tactics that they’ve previously overlooked):  

 Seven ways to attract more LinkedIn Recommendations 
  1. Move your Skills & Expertise section closer to the top of your profile where it’s more visible.
  2. Endorse others whenever you can.
  3. List skills that are not too specialized and easy for others to endorse.
  4. Before you start to accumulate endorsements, list skills in descending order of importance to you.  (The system will subsequently list your skills with the most endorsements first, followed by skills without endorsements in the order in which you added them.)
  5. Suggest skills your connections ought to be endorsed for that aren’t currently on their profile.
  6. Promote your goodwill and visibility (and consequently drive more traffic to your profile) by:  becoming more active and helpful in LinkedIn groups, optimizing your profile, and posting regular status and profile updates.
  7. Increase your number of contacts by allowing LinkedIn to search your e-mail contact list(s).

Friday, May 10, 2013

Is it sexual harassment to make employees work on sexually explicit projects that make them uncomfortable?

In a recent discussion on LinkedIn, Barbara Miller, a self-employed Special Markets Rep in the Greater Boston Area, posed the following two questions:

1.  Is it sexual harassment if an employee has to work on a printed piece that is sexually explicit, even if it's a utilitarian/non-fiction book or publication--and handling the job makes the employee uncomfortable?

2.  What should an employer do if an employee has moral issues with a piece s/he is working on (which tends to be an even greater issue if the content is heavy on graphics, but could also happen with text only)?  

Barbara thought some employers make accommodation for employees in these cases, and some find ways to avoid it.

My reply was:  Interesting points. When I was working as a recruiter, I vividly remember meeting a candidate who worked for a company that produced dvds and who attended church regularly. The fact that the company had started reproducing a lot of porn was what motivated her to look for a new job.”

We would be interested to hear related anecdotes or your analysis of these or similar situations.