Jacquie's Job Search Tips

Here's something I've never blogged about before, but I get asked about all the time. I don't know why I'm asked about this topic often, but it seems people think I have good advice to give. And to toot my own horn a bit, I have helped a lot of people along the way with how to improve their resume, how they should handle their social media lives during job searches, and have given loads of interview tips. I even was the ghost-writer of a resume for someone who had been jobless for many months who shortly after landed a great job. I don't know, I don't have any hard evidence it was my re-draft of her resume...but she was very pleased. So it seems I know a bit about the topic.

I was giving advice again recently and typing out a long-winded email to a former intern on the hunt for a job, when I decided that maybe I should post this to my blog, so that the next time someone asked, I could just give them the link.

This is geared towards people looking for their first "adult" job after university, or people looking to change careers.

1. When searching for work, I would suggest being persistent and following up your dropped off resume, and if you get an interview, send a thank you card afterwards no matter how it went. Don't burn any bridges and say thank you often. You never know when you'll need those contacts down the road. And people LOVE getting hand written notes.

2. Always write a resume customized to the job post. Take key words from the job post and include them on your resume, in case they digitally review them, but it also helps for old fashioned review styles. Make sure you take the job post point by point and reference all items between your cover letter and your resume. I can't stress this enough...be very specific to the job you are applying for, a general resume will rarely work.

3. Don't write a novel. Ideally, a resume should be 1 page, 2 pages if you have loads of relevant work experience or you need to include published articles and so on. Don't list every task at every job you've ever had. A resume is an advertisement that gets them hooked -- leave things to be discussed in an interview. Just include interesting and the most relevant experience you have.

4. Write a custom cover letter for each job. Don't tell them what they are going to read in your resume, instead let your personality shine through, and tell them why you want that job in particular. Be honest and be fun to read.

5. Never say you are "responsible, reliable, punctual, hard-working" or any of those other general words on a resume or cover letter. If you are applying for the job, it's assumed you can handle it if you are applying. Talk about your skills. Managing multiple projects and deadlines is a skill; being a hard worker is not a skill.

6. Before the interview research the heck out of the job and the employer. Read their entire website. Google them and read articles about their industry. Then if they ask you if you have questions you will have questions to ask specific to the company, and it will show you have done your research. It's ok to ask questions you already know the answer to. The point is to show them you know what you are applying for.

7. On the day of the interview, dress conservatively, even if that isn't your style day-to-day. I never wear nude nail polish....except for job interviews and sales meetings with new clients. Once they love you, you can get away with wearing more crazy stuff. The exception to this is if the job is at a fashion company or somewhere else where dressing with flair is encouraged.

8. Know the answer to standard questions and practice them. What is your weakness, what is a challenge  you've overcome in a workplace, how do you handle stress, how do you organize your time, where do you see yourself in 5 years....your answers can be only vaguely true (especially the 5 years one) but practice them and know the answers in advance so you don't have to sit there thinking about it.

9. In the interview don't be afraid to ask them to repeat the question mid-answer (to make sure you are on track) and don't be afraid to tell them you are nervous-if you are. This is an interview, not a contest at being perfect. At the end of the interview, try to find a way to ask for the job. Either ask if they will be doing second interviews, or what their timeline is for hiring. This gives them the impression you're hungry for it, and gives you a chance to tell them you're really interested and can't wait to hear from them.

10. Bring things to the interview. If the job is creative, bring a portfolio of some kind. Don't email them a link to a website, or ask them to download a pdf, or to read your blog. Print stuff out and bring it, or bring an ipad loaded with samples. Always take a copy of your resume and cover letter to an interview in a folder. For one, it's good if the person doesn't have it handy, and two, it gives you something to do with your hands so you don't fidget.

11. Be early. Sit in the waitiing room, or use the washroom, or walk around. Eat a healthy meal with protein beforehand. (This tip in particular is one I've mucked up before and it was a disaster. I was so hungry I got blubbery in the interview...not good).

12. Be aware that the employer may have googled you. Especially if you work in any social field (communications, social media, pr, design) you need to know what your google results say about you. If you don't like what they say, get working on fixing your google results so you do like them (sidebar, should I do a post on how to do that too?) so that you are proud of what the results say. If they google you and there are no results...that is bad, possibly worse than embarrassing results. Put up a LinkedIn page at the very least.

13. On the topic of social media, do NOT say you have "social media" as a job skill if you only use it for personal reasons. Having a facebook or twitter account is not a job skill, unless you have done it for an employer in the past, or to promote something specific other than yourself. Instead, focus on the software you use, for example you might say that you are comfortable in both a Mac or PC environment, and are skilled in using a wide range of software including...

14. Lastly, in my view, little white lies are ok, so long as you will do the work needed afterwards to make it a truth. For example, I was once asked in an interview if I had used Excel before. I hadn't. I had used Lotus 123 (a very old spreadsheet program on my parent's computer as a child) and I understood Excel was a spreadsheet program in the Windows suite. I said yes. In the meantime, I learned how to use Excel and taught myself to write formulas and other basic skills. When the time came to use it I was ready to go, because I'd worked hard to get there.

Let me know in the comments what you think, are my job search tips useful?


Road Trip: Montreal

I'm now living about an hour from Montreal, and so Eddy and I decided to take advantage of our locale and visit Montreal for an evening during Nuit Blanche. Truth told, we only discovered it was Nuit Blanche after reading this article about sandwiches to eat in Montreal, and trying to decide what weekend we'd head out to see how the list holds up.

While trying to choose a weekend to book a hotel, I noticed that there was a 24 hour showing of The Clock, one of my favourite works of art. (I blogged about seeing it in Ottawa here.) So it worked out that we could eat a lot of sandwiches, and catch a showing of the Clock for free as part of Nuit Blanche, which seemed like a perfect plan.

We started out hungry on Saturday morning, aiming to eat at Patati Patata.  This was slightly misguided because there was snow and the drive took closer to 2 hours, and by the time we arrived it was noon and the lineup in this tiny place was almost out the door. If I'd had a light breakfast, or had anything other than black coffee at this point I might have been able to endure waiting in  line to get a seat. But that wasn't the case. So we walked for a while and found Cafe Code Black. It sure looked nice inside, with reclaimed furniture and minimal decor, and the coffee was served quickly and was of great quality. That said, we waited at least 30 minutes for our sandwiches, and they were a bit disappointing, especially since they were around $10. 

After leaving Code Black we started to walk back to the car to head to the hotel. We walked past Patisserie Nôtre Maison, a small Portuguese bakery. We went in, mostly because I was excited about fresh donuts, and we ended up splitting another sandwich there as well. (The donut was all mine.) This sandwich didn't have any fancy name, you just picked a meat and cheese and they put it on a fresh roll with lettuce and tomato...but it far outshone the previous sandwich, and was less than half the price. An important lesson here is that fancy coffee shops are good at coffee...but tiny independent bakeries that don't look cool at all are probably better at sandwiches.

After checking into the hotel, we found our room overlooking Place des Arts, where all the excitement was happening. Jugglers were warming up and the ferris wheel was already spinning. We found out that we could go from our hotel to the art gallery through an underground path without ever going outside, which seemed great, since we knew we would be waiting in lineups later on and not having a heavy winter coat would be a blessing. After relaxing for a while, we headed back out on foot to explore Rue St. Catherine for some window shopping, and a barber shop stop for Eddy, and then found our next planned sandwich shop, Bocadillo

Bocadillo was a total success. We ordered a passion fruit pulled pork arepa, some fries with spicy dipping sauce, and a couple of empanadas. This meal was a highlight and I would definitely recommend this restaurant. We will go back another time.

Luckily, we noticed that the restaurant was near Ye Olde Orchard pub, so we stopped in there to have a pint or two of St. Ambroise. Next on our walking tour was Benelux, a craft beer bar. We could have easily stayed there all night sampling beers, but after a flight it was nearing 10pm and our plan was to try to catch The Clock at midnight, so we headed back to the hotel to drop our coats and head to the Musée.

Like many events with thousands of attendees and loads of security, things were a little sticky getting into the museum, and we were forced to go above ground and outside (in spite of the supposed no-need-to-go-outside advice we'd received) to climb a ridiculous flight of wooden stairs, then descend another flight of slippery stairs, to get to the entrance. Note to Montreal Nuit Blanche: this would be hard to do in a wheelchair. 

Once inside, we began lining up for The Clock. The museum was packed with impatient people all wanting a look at the art piece, rarely able to be viewed past regular museum hours. It seems that other people had the brilliant idea of catching the midnight hour, because after lining up for nearly two hours we found ourselves frustratingly close to the entrance at 11:45pm. I suggested anyone in there at that time was staying for midnight, and I was right. The venue virtually cleared and we were allowed in and found seats at 12:09am. Alas, it was still a fun experience to see the film from almost midnight until after 2am. A lot of the piece at that time revolves around people in bed and people waking up or going to sleep, and I started to get drowsy, so we headed out of the museum. We took a quick walk through A Matter of Abstraction on the way out and I was excited to see some works from William Ronald. I guess those years at the RMG rubbed off on me because I feel like I could spot his work from a mile away. 

By this point it was a complete blizzard! After being forced outside again, and suffering our way back to the hotel (maybe the not bringing coats thing wasn't a great idea) we bundled up and headed to find some late night munchies. A massively disastrous service experience at Frites Alors! led to a stop in at Five Guys burgers. It was just as you'd expect it to be at 3am -- better than McDonalds.

Sunday morning we had a solid breakfast at Eggspectation, and headed out for a nice sunny walk through downtown Montreal in search of plaid shirts. After some success, and a drool-worthy stop in at one of my favorite Montreal shopping spots Simon's, we went to the movies and saw Monuments Men. It disappointed but I still enjoyed some of the art references and historical basis. I'd like to read the book, and it gave us lots to talk about on the drive home.

All in all attempting to eat 10 sandwiches in two days was a bit of a bust. On the upside, we are close enough to go back soon and make another attempt!

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On my Relocation to a Small Eastern Ontario Town

I woke up this morning thinking about this long-neglected blog. But my blog isn't the only thing I've been neglecting in the past few months. I thought perhaps getting a post up here is a first step to the next phase of my relocation.

I decided over a year ago now that I wanted to move to the small town where my partner lived and start fresh. This wasn't the easiest thing to tackle. I liked where I lived, where I worked, and my community. To make it happen, I needed to find a new job, sell my condo (which involved staging it as well) and wrap up a number of different projects and organizations I was involved in. I essentially wanted to tap the reset button on my life. I`ve lived a few places but never outside of the greater Toronto area. I now live in a town whose population is less than half the size of the high school I went to.

Looking back on the whole year of projects to make this happen it doesn't seem that bad, but there were times in the thick of it when I definitely melted down. I was sick in November and again in December, and again during my actual move on New Year`s Eve. Being that I'm a person who rarely gets a cold, being sick so many times in quick succession told me it was time to slow down and settle in. As such, following the move, I've decidedly done very little, save starting my new job, and focussing on that, as well as settling into my new apartment and nesting (read: cooking and eating, watching Netflix).

But now that February is wrapping up and it feels like Spring might actually come this year I think it's time to start to put together my plan of attack.

Some things I want to start doing

1. Blogging more often. I miss writing creatively. Plus, I went to Edmonton for work, and should write about that. Plus this weekend is a trip to eat sandwiches and see art in Montreal, so I will  need to make notes on that too. I'm working in the fashion industry now and I haven't blogged about fashion or trends in ages! Must do that too. In general, I want to pick up this habit again.

2. Going to Zumba. I need to get out of the house more, now that I'm working from home. Working from home also means no healthy walk to work in the morning. So, I'm going to try out zumba. I'll keep you posted on how the drinking of the zumba kool-aid goes for me.

3. Fermenting things. I got into the idea of fermenting right before xmas and asked for a book about it. I read the book cover to cover and I'm even more convinced that this is a good thing to know how to do. Further, it's a way to eat completely delicious savoury things and also contribute to my health. I started my first sauerkraut this week, and I want to get good enough to make my own yoghourt.

4. Making art. I've really let this part of my creative output slide over the last few years, oddly enough, especially during the time I worked at an art gallery. Short of Christmas gifts and a few assignments I gave myself I can't seem to finish a painting. I'd like to improve that. Not sure how. I've been thinking I might just need to start sketching more, but I include writing in this category. I have started and stopped many writing projects, and I'd like to try to see one through.

5. Community involvement. I know this is part of the satisfaction I have in life. I want to make some time to volunteer and get involved here, especially in the arts community. Some research is needed, and I'm sure opportunities will find me eventually. This is a longer-range to-do item.

I`m considering this post to be the first of a new string that tells my readers a little bit about my new life and its ups and downs. While for the most part, it`s all going very well (job is good, living arrangements are good, massive reduction in stress is good) but there are challenges. Being away from friends and family, feeling a bit fish out of water, reading menus in French, those sorts of things. Speaking of fish, here`s one short tale of getting to know rural eastern Ontario life...

In the next town over there is an Independent grocery store, which to me is as good as any Loblaws in Southern Ontario...it even has a Joe Fresh section. This has become something of a favourite haunt of mine, because of course I`m loving cooking at the moment and also because it feels a bit more like home than any other place to purchase food here. Recently as a treat to myself I bought some grocery store sushi. This is something I`d occasionally do in Oshawa, and though it's not very good, it's passable for the most part and good in a pinch when I'm hungry and don't want to make two stops.

While out at the Independent I decided to treat myself and picked up the special pack that isn't just california rolls, it's also the other style with the fresh raw salmon across the rice. This comes at extra cost but it always worth it as it is the best piece in the box. At Independent in this rural area though, it's not raw fish. It's smoked salmon. Sushi lovers will surely understand the range of emotions....the sheer disappointment....followed by the harsh lesson learned. Next time I crave sushi, I'll have to drive to Montreal to get it.


Roadtrip: Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Things have been hectic in the world of Jacquie lately. I've been working on relocating and that has involved many things; resume drafting, phone calls, interviews, real estate appointments, packing/cleaning/organizing and a general taking-care-of-things that have absorbed so much of my life over the last six months.

In spite of this, my boyfriend and I planned and took a trip to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. The timing was tricky but I'm so happy we didn't postpone it, because we had a fantastic time!

The idea to go to Delaware came about because of the band the Slackers. We had heard they were playing in London, England on Halloween. Of course, this seemed like a great idea but a weekend-long trip to England was not in the budget. But while checking out the band's website , I noticed they were also scheduled for a gig in Rehoboth Beach. I had no idea where that was, but they were putting on a free show at Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and it seemed like a perfect opportunity for a road trip!

In researching Rehoboth Beach, I learned that the population is less than 1500 people, but there are 29 hotels. It's a summer destination primarily for people who live in Philadelphia, PA, or Washington, DC, being about two hours drive from each. Situated on the coast in the state's Cape Region, the city balloons to over 25,000 in the summer months. A beautiful boardwalk, picturesque shops, bars and restaurants, and of course, a gorgeous beach, are what make this a popular spot to visit.

It so happened that right before leaving, I also discovered that the same weekend we'd be there, was the Sea Witch Festival, a Halloween-themed, weekend-long celebration! I was so excited when I found out because I'm crazy about halloween.

Rehoboth Beach is about 7-9 hours drive directly south of Kingston, Ontario. Our first stop was in Syracuse NY, where we luckily happened upon Dinosaur BBQ. This was a huge accident and a complete highlight. They had a great selection of craft beer on tap, an awesome menu, and incredible food. We had fried green tomatoes, mac n' cheese, pulled pork, and more. They make their own delicious hot sauces and the atmosphere is great too. We finished the meal with an incredible cheesecake unlike I've ever experienced in a restaurant.

Onwards we drove until stopping in Bear, Delaware. Bear is just outside of Wilmington, which is the most populous area of the state, and is actually very close to Philadelphia. Bear was chosen because of a cheap but fancy hotel, a bit off the beaten path. We closed the night eating greasy American pizza and were off to bed. The drive from Bear to Rehoboth Beach was only about an hour and a half, so we stopped along the way in Smyrna, DE to have a meal at the Waffle House.

When we arrived at the beach, we checked into our totally cute hotel. The Crosswinds Motel had a woman dressed as a man at the front desk, (halloween festival, remember) and our room was small but completely updated. We really liked this hotel and I can't recommend it enough. Another great feature is that it was located next door to the Dogfish Head brewpub!

Eddy on the Beach

Exploring Rehoboth Beach over the next two days was a blast. We met some fantastic people! Tons of people were in Halloween costumes for the festival, just walking in the streets like that which was so fun. Kids were ducking in and out of stores trick-or-treating, and there were games and activities. The beach was very busy for late October! The streets were bustling too. Rehoboth Beach is a very pretty and walk-able community and I can imagine it must get pretty crazy in the summer months.

One thing we learned while at the Seafood Shack , was that there is a large gay and lesbian community there. As we were informed by some new friends we made, the area is sometimes called "gay beach". It was definitely more subtle than gay neighbourhoods in Toronto, for example. No big rainbow flags, no sex shops, no bathhouse advertising. Which was interesting, but seeing as the political climate is different in the US, you can understand why it would be a bit more reserved. Our friend pointed out that it was a bit more of a family destination lately, as, "when the restaurants, nightlife and shopping are made great by the gays, the families follow," which makes sense to me too.

Here's an article on the Huffington Post about this topic, that also points out that gay marriage is now legal in the state of Delaware.

The Slackers at Dogfish Head
The first evening we spent at the brew pub watching the Slackers. We had a great time eating their incredible food, trying out different beers from the menu, and dancing the night away. Dogfish Head started out in 1995 and is now a very large and successful craft brewery. Their initial goal was to bring good beer, great food, and great music to the Rehoboth Beach area, and that's exactly what we experienced while there.

On our second day there, we explored the area by driving along the coast and over some of Delaware's famous suspension bridges that extend along the coastal state parks. At points ocean is on either side of the highway, while sand dunes rise up around you. It's an incredibly beautiful area. After our drive, we stopped into a little tavern called the Table & Taproom. This was another accidental find and we were the only people in there when we walked in. We sat at the bar and began asking questions about beer. The fellow working told us he wasn't a beer expert, since he was the head chef and just covering until the bartender arrived. This ended up working in our favour, as he began to insist we try things on the house for "keeping him company", which of course, was our pleasure.
One of the best I tried: Hell or Highwatermelon by
21st Amendment Brewery

We had house-made pretzel sticks with house-made mustard and house-made horseradish-spiked cheese, deep fried pickled zucchini with spicy house-made ketchup (you're sensing a house made theme, right?) and a great flat bread. This spot is a favourite memory of mine--I like it when you discover places like this by accident, and you're treated like an old friend by staff.

Later that evening (after a long nap!) we went to the movies and saw Bad Grandpa...which actually was a good choice for a light vacation movie, and had a very late dinner at the Rehoboth Beach diner, a typical american spot with huge portions and all-day breakfast.

Before departing the beach in the morning we stopped at Surf Bagel. Their house special was a tuna or chicken salad on a toasted bagel with cheese and topped with a pineapple ring. This sounded crazy but who is to argue with a house special? So of course we both had that, and it was better than you can imagine. On the road we continued and stopped briefly in Philadelphia, to visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art. But actually, not to visit the museum (it's closed on Monday's anyhow) but instead to have a bit of a Rocky moment.

Finally, we drove back through Syracuse and stopped again for another incredible bbq meal at Dinosaur BBQ. If something is nice, do it twice. We crossed back into Canada and stayed the night in Gananoque.

Busy Boardwalk, Rehoboth Beach
Our last day of vacation was spent in Kingston. We finally ate at Morrison's Restaurant. I snapped a pic of the restaurant's sign for my sign blog (here) last summer,  and this spot is something of an institution in Kingston. The classic busy diner, with a long counter with short stools in front of it and booths surrounding it, the menu is just as you expect it to be.  We then went and watched two movies back to back, the surprisingly un-terrible but just-as-you-want-it-to-be ridiculous Escape Plan, and the much better and incredibly beautiful Gravity.

We had such a great time on this trip, we discussed when we could go back again. So many people asked us, "Why Delaware?" because to Canadians that area isn't really known as a vacation destination. Having visited, I can see why it is popular with the surrounding areas and I would love to go back in the warmer months to take advantage of the beach. Maybe we'll go back to catch the Slackers again. It was worth the drive!

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