Putting Down My Fireside HR Pen

October 25, 2010


It’s amazing how much can change in six months.  When you’re going through life, simply trying to make the best choices you can for yourself, it’s hard to put this reality into perspective, but as I say goodbye to the Fireside HR blog, it’s hard not to realize this fact.

Fireside HR is a collaborative blog wherein multiple writers give their opinions on HR-related topics.  When Helen Luketic created the blog in 2009, she was the only writer.  Fourteen months later, Helen chose to change the format of the blog by adding other local bloggers to her list of Fireside HR contributors.

It’s definitely been an interesting run.  When I first began writing for Fireside HR, I was still seeking full-time employment.  You can feel the anger in a lot of my submissions.  My first piece for example, was called “Why fill an entry-level position with a lateral mover?”  I remember being surprised at how hard it was to write about human resources when I wasn’t actually doing HR work.

Another particularly memorable piece for me was called “Are we choosing sustainability over health care in the City of Vancouver?”  What I loved about both of these submissions in particular was the volume of dialogue that was exchanged, in response to each one.  I received a number of emails expressing upset with various large organizations like the City of Vancouver, and I also read a lot of emails from people with years of HR experience behind them, but were also struggling to find employment.

The Fireside HR blog is not being fully disbanded, although it is going through a major change.  As a corporate site, created ultimately by the BC HRMA, they control how it is maintained.  I can’t tell you exactly what their plans are right now … but I can tell you when the changes have all been completed. 

It was a great adventure to write alongside the other extremely talented women who also wrote for the blog.  This included Holly MacDonald (who is an HR consultant and the creator of Spark + co), Dana Sebal (the HR director at Sebal Enterprises), Krysty Wideen (an HR consultant at The Refinery Leadership Partners), Agata Zagata (a people resources assocate at Lululemon Athletica), Suzanne Boyd (a partner at Noverra Consulting & Capital Partners), and of course Helen Luketic, whose tireless efforts brought the Fireside HR Blog to life.


ATTN BCIT Alumni – BCIT HRA Mentoring Program registration is open!

September 16, 2010

BCIT’s Human Resources Association is resurrecting its Mentoring Program.  Originally created in 2008 by the HRA‘s Executive at the time, the Mentoring Program was set aside subsequent years because students were overwhelmed with the workload involved.

I think it’s an incredibly lost opportunity for student and alumni mentoring to not take place, and so I’m volunteering as the HRA Mentoring Program manager.  I completely understand how past 2nd year students felt too overloaded with schoolwork to maintain the program, which is why I suggested an alumnus lead its organization.

Three groups of mentoring pairs are being formed:

  1. 1st year students & 2nd year students
  2. 2nd year students & alumni
  3. Alumni only

There is so much to gain from finding a professional mentor – you get access to a professional who is working in your field, and you are able to network with their colleagues.  Mentoring is a unique relationship that acts like a springboard of your making; the more you explore the options available, the more opportunities you’ll uncover.

Likewise, being a professional mentor for a BCIT human resources alumnus enables you to connect with the industry’s future leaders.  BCIT is highly regarded as the most recognizable and challenging human resources education program.  Even as universities and colleges attempt to match the curriculum offered to BCIT’s HR students, nothing can compare to its practical, well-rounded and challenging program.

By mentoring a BCIT human resources alumnus, you gain access to a rich community of professionals who share the same strengths as you.  If you attended full-time day school at BCIT, I’m sure you have fond memories of spending time with your set … even if they were the most challenging times of your life!  Now that you’re succeeding in the human resources field, this is the time to give back to the community that built your professional roots.  I’m sure that many people gave you the support you needed throughout your formative years; this is the time for you to help out budding professional with the same educational background as you.

The only requirement to participating in the BCIT HRA’s Mentoring Program is that you must either be a current BCIT human resources student or have graduated from a BCIT human resources program.  Full-time, part-time and post-diploma students and grads are all welcome!

If you are interested in finding a mentor, or being a mentor yourself, you can find more information at on the HRA Mentoring Program site.

If you’re ready to be paired with a mentor or mentee, contact me at mentoring.bcithra@gmail.com.

Avoiding Colloquialisms

September 7, 2010

Somehow Labour Day weekend has passed, and thousands of students are returning to school in the Lower Mainland.  We working adults tend to relax certain rules during the summertime, adopting more casual dress in the office, and taking seasonal vacations.  Summer offers an opportunity to relax our minds, but sometimes we allow our attitudes to relax more than we desire.  Now that people are returning back to work, and new grads no longer have an excuse to ‘take a break’ from the stresses of their final year at school, let’s discuss ways to replace colloquial summer chatter with more appropriate speech.

Whether you’re engaged in a second interview, having a casual coffee with a new colleague or making a new acquaintance at a networking event, it’s painful when the words you want to say are so casual that you madly search your head for a replacement that you cannot seem to find.

If the word you need to say is cool or awesome, remember that you’re actually trying to express perfection.  You can say that something is fantastic, or what the person has just said ‘sounds inspiring.’  Focus on being more descriptive about the thing which you are referring to, and think of what is it that you find so interesting before making the flat statement that something is cool.

If you find yourself constantly saying ummmm, realize that you’re doing so!  Before responding to the person you’re speaking to, replace your ummmm with ‘you know what, I wonder _____,’ if you’re actually trying to ask a follow-up question.  You can also replace an ummmm with the phrases ‘I thought _____,’ ‘I think _____,’ or ‘I wonder _____.’

The key to appropriate speech is expressing thoughtful phrases.  As you begin networking again, or perhaps for the first time, realize that the impression you leave on people can be directly affected by the way you verbally express yourself.  Having said that, speak truthfully and tactfully to avoid colloquialisms.

Get your coffee from the outside!

August 10, 2010

One of my favourite quotes from Seinfeld comes from a discussion between Seinfeld and Kramer.  After Kramer shoots a disapproving look to his friend who apparently does not have coffee in his house, Seinfeld shouts, “I don’t keep real coffee in here, I get my coffee from the outside!”

In today’s world, even emotions can be displayed and understood using digital means.  I feel like it would be possible for a person to experience an entire day interacting digitally with people, yet physically speaking to no one at all. 

As people pass each other on the street, they often listen to some form of digital media during at least part of their travels.  When we do certain things, we signal to others that we do not wish to communicate, and so we are left to our own thoughts, and our own digital devices.  By putting on headphones, we shut out the world, and signal to those around us that we are not to be bothered.

I love that quote from Seinfeld because he seems to make the argument for going outside and experiencing the physical world.  Networking isn’t about emailing comments or accepting the association of an acquaintance without ever meeting that person.  It’s about communication.

Technology can be used to alienate or connect us.  I urge you, stop drinking only homemade coffee, then blasting some TED discussion or audiobook during every free moment of your day!  Take the time to show others that you are available to something other than a digital source.  Become available for communication and to become connected with others.

Who knows … maybe the next time you sit at a coffee shop before work and share the newspaper with a stranger, you’ll begin the relationship of a lifetime.

What Makes You Unapproachable? Your clothing looks uncomfortable!

July 29, 2010

The next time you plan to wear a new pair of heels or a brand new suit jacket that just fits if you’re standing ‘just the right way’ to a networking event, I urge you to think again.  There is nothing flattering about bloody heels or a constricting jacket.

I understand the desire to wear what you consider to be the most beautiful articles of clothing you own during networking events.  It’s an opportunity to showcase your personal style, after all.  Events aren’t always held at hotel ballrooms, they’re held at lounges and restaurants, which means you don’t have to wear stereotypical office wear.  You can show who you are through what you are wearing.

Having said that, what do you think it says about you if the clothing you wear causes you to continually check to see that you’re still as composed as when you arrived  Consider how awkward it would look if you needed to continually fuss with some trinket or decal attached to your clothes.  You’d be subconsciously creating a wall between you (the uncomfortable, fidgeting newbie) and everyone else (the confident, comfortable-in-their-own-skin pro’s).  There’s a fine line between looking stylish and looking ridiculous.  I’m not here to clarify exactly what that looks like, but I will simply remind you that the purpose of attending networking events is to make new connections – not to put on a fashion show.

Do yourself a favor and wear comfortable clothing when networking.  Being physically comfortable will make you feel more confident and genuine, which in turn makes you more approachable.

A modern high school reunion

July 25, 2010

I can hardly believe that it’s almost that time … I graduated from high school in 2001, which means that my 10 year reunion is just around the corner.

Would it surprise me to tell you that I’m on my high school’s Alumni Committee?  I represent my grad class at monthly meetings, and was somehow shocked to realize that it’s come time to think about my reunion.

All I know is that I want the reunion to be an event that people actually want to attend.  The real purpose of holding a reunion is to encourage as many old friends to attend and reconnect as possible.  I’ve already heard from friends that they’ve decided not to attend, and power to them – I couldn’t force someone to attend even if I wanted to go that route.  But my hope is still to see as many old classmates in the same room at some point in 2011.

Some classmates have said they don’t want to have the stereotypical repeat of our dry grad: a dinner/dance downtown.  Cool, that’s fine with me.  Others have also mentioned that cost is a major concern of theirs – they don’t want to spent a few hundred dollars and think, ‘what was that for?’  I really do get it, and I have no problem listening to concerns … but what I haven’t heard yet is suggestions as to what we could do.  Can’t we try to build an event before dismissing it altogether?


The funny thing is that if you google ‘modern high school reunion,’ you’re directed to a number of sites that promise an effective ‘high school reunion diet.’  That made me laugh.  Let’s decide on an event before trying to change our bodies to suit our egos for that night, shall we?

My question to you is, have you been to a high school reunion that you actually enjoyed … or not?  What did you do for your 10 year high school reunion … other than refuse to attend?

What’s Making You Unapproachable? Your Entourage!

July 22, 2010

Recently I’ve received a number of emails from people what they can do to be more approachable at networking events.  They feel like they’re the ones who primarily initiate conversation, but would prefer for people to approach them.  Each week, I’ll write about what you may be doing to deter potential contacts from approaching you, and offer solutions to these challenges.

This week, let’s talk about bringing a group of friends to a networking event:

If you’ve decided to start attending formal networking events, but you’re uncomfortable attending on your own, I understand.  It doesn’t seem natural or genuine to show up at a downtown hotel wearing business attire, with the expectation that you will connect with a group of strangers.  So what did you do?  You convinced co-workers or classmates to come along with you.

Great strategy … except you haven’t been bringing 1 or 2 comfort blankets, you’ve been bringing a protective entourage of 4 or 5 people!  While bringing a group of colleagues along with you may work to your advantage during an particularly large event – since you could split up and meet as many people as you can, so that collectively, you will have spoken to every person in the room – but chances are, you’re just meeting with friends and standing in the corner until some poor bloke is able to squeeze into your little circle.

Think about this practically – Jessica decided to bring 3 friends to a networking event.  None of her friends have been to a networking event before, and so the three friends cling to each other, making a small circle.  Philip has just arrived, and sees that there are four girls engaged in conversation, and then sees a woman standing by herself.  He approaches the woman standing alone, perhaps not because she looks left out of the conversation, but because it is less intimidating for him to approach a single person rather than a group of people.

The other problem with bringing an entourage to an event is that people tend to do what feels more comfortable.  In this case, that means sticking with your friends and chatting with them.  Perhaps you’ll look over your shoulder to see who may be looking to have a chat, but for the most part, you’ll isolate yourselves.  Students do this all the time – a group of 8 will attend an event, and they’ll spend the whole evening huddled together.  But that wasn’t why you put on a suit – you packed up your new business cards because your intention was to meet new people.

It irks me when people say that networking is a shallow practice that involves shaking a lot of hands and carrying handfuls of business cards.  It’s not about that – it’s about making new connections.  When you do attend a formal networking event, you want to make significant connections rather than a hundred superficial ones.  If you feel more comfortable attending an event with a friend, then bring no more than one.  That way, it feels more natural when you are separated, and at the very least, you know that you won’t necessarily be standing by yourself at any given time.