Sunday, 8 March 2015


In my group of friends I'm known as the "hashtag networker". I'm constantly encouraging my friends to attend networking events, and I try to get involved in any networking opportunity that I can. Needless to say, I love networking!

Yesterday a friend ask me, "How do you find it so easy to approach people and talk to them?" In my mind the answer was obvious; if I'm not meeting people, how will I further my knowledge and skills in my profession? How will I find a job?

Now, I understand that networking isn't for everyone. For those who are shy, or those with anxiety, networking can be a very challenging task. It can be especially difficult at larger networking events that are packed with professionals. Approaching a stranger and sparking up a conversation isn't always an easy thing to do.

Through my networking experiences, I've come up with a few tips to make the endeavour a little bit easier.

1. Be prepared with business cards.
I don't think I've ever attended a networking event where I haven't been asked for a business card. I ordered mine for a really great price at, but you can always design and pint your own, or hire someone to do them for you. Keep them somewhere accessible, like the inside pocket of your jacket, to make them easy to whip out in that perfect moment.
2. Have a glass of wine.
This always helps me loosen up, and calm any nerves. One or two drinks is fine, but don't go over board! There's nothing less classy than an intoxicated first impression.
3. Don't cling onto friends.
I've been to a number of networking events with friends, but I always ditch them once we get through the door. It's easy to cling to a group that you're comfortable with, and stay within that group for the night. If you do that, what's the point of being at the networking event? Go out and meet people!
4. Look for singles.
No, I don't mean that you should look for people without a wedding ring on. What I mean is that you should look for people who are standing alone. It's easier to approach people who are alone, rather than walking up to a group of people who are already in the middle of a conversation. When I can, I always hang out by the bar, wait for someone to walk up by themselves, and then I spark up a conversation.
5. Be inquisitive.
People love to talk about themselves, and you should love to learn about other people. Find out who they are, what they do, how they ended up there, etc. Be interested and inquisitive. The rest will come easily.
6. Follow through.
Follow through by asking for their business card, and give them your card as well. If you made a good connection, send them an e-mail or a Tweet the next day. Say it was great to meet them, reference something you spoke about, and thank them for any advice they gave you. You can also ask them out for coffee, and start to build a relationship with them. Last week I even had a guy go as far as mailing me a hand-written card as a follow-up after we met at a networking event. I was so impressed! Although I wouldn't say that a hand-written card is necessary.

I hope this helps you tackle the art of networking.

Let me know how it goes!


Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Money Morons

For the most of us, coming out of post secondary education means starting payments to your student loans- not exactly something to look forward to. If you are realistic with yourself, however, you can manage it quite easily and be out of debt in no time.

I've come to realize that a lot of parents never explained to us gen-Y babies how finances really work- making most of us money morons. No one explained to me the logistics of a credit card, the realities of interest, or how to manage a proper budget. Every time I received a new loan, I would think to myself, "Yay! More money!" Ohhh, how I was terribly, terribly wrong.

After a lot of research, I'm finally figuring out how to get a grip on my finances, rather than my finances having a grip on me. Reluctantly, I went through all of my debts and added them up. Note that that includes three credit cards, one line of credit, and one government student loan. The total came to a whopping $40,000. I was astounded, spent a day crying, then realized I need to get a grip on things and start paying this off ASAP.
First things first, I made a budget. The categories included:
  • Rent
  • Groceries
  • Debts (Credit Card #1, Credit Card #2, Credit Card #3, Line of Credit, Student Loan)
  • Dog Food/Vet
  • Transportation
  • Fun
I also canceled my gym membership (I can run outside and use weights at home), my monthly charitable donations (I volunteer instead), and I got really lucky with my dad offering to pay my phone bill and car insurance (#typicalGenY... Relying on parents... It's a hard cycle to break, okay?)

I put all the necessary payments towards my fixed expenses. With what ever money is left, I add some to my "Fun" category, and the rest goes to additional debt payments.

My credit cards have the highest interest rates (19.5%) among my debts, so I'm working on paying those off first. If you have a credit card with $1,000 on it, an interest rate of 18%, and you make the minimum payment of 1.5%, you end up spending $9,015 in INTEREST before you manage to pay it off! Not to mention it will take years to pay it! Suddenly that $1,000 has turned into $10,015.
Worth it? No, I didn't think so.  
The trick is to pay early and often. If you have any extra money, put it onto your credit card (or your highest interest debt), while maintaining minimum payments on all of your other debts. Stop buying coffee at Starbucks- or coffee anywhere for that matter. Pack your lunch. Stop buying magazines, and new clothes, and movie tickets, and drinks at the bar, and nice meals out. Stop spending money on things you don't need!
It won't be forever, so relax, you'll be fine. Being out of debt (and not accumulating ridiculous interest fees) is so much more worth it in the long run.

Then as you pay off each debt, add that payment to the next debt with the highest interest rate, and you'll see a snowball effect. Before you know it you'll be debt free and kissing those payments good bye!
Here are some other tips to reduce your spending, and in turn, reduce your debt:
  • Call your financial institutions and see if they can reduce your interest rates, or change your account to one with less bank fees.
  • Consolidate your loans (so you are only paying one interest rate).
  • Comparison shop, or use coupons when at the grocery store, and put the money saved towards your debts.
  • Cancel subscriptions (magazines, cable packages, gym memberships, charitable donations).
  • Stop taking money out at the ATM and paying those unnecessary bank fees.
  • Go on a cash diet (I realized I spend a lot less when I can physically see the money, rather than paying on plastic).
  • Look into free festivals, events, and activities in your area. There are a lot of good ways to have fun without spending money.
When it comes to savings, I have personally decided to pay off my debts before I save. Some of you might say that this is a bad decision, but it's what I've decided to do.

Let me know if you have any other good tips on how to save, spend wisely, and reduce your debt. I'd love to hear from you!

Social Media: Helps & Hurts

Growing up in the digital age, we are all too familiar with the ins and outs of social media. It's difficult to be a gen-Y baby and not find social media tangled throughout our daily lives. Although it's proven to be useful to connect with friends, share photos, and stay up to date with the latest news, it's important to learn how to use social media in an effective way when getting ready to apply for jobs.

You can guarantee that in today's hiring market, your employers will be looking you up on Twitter, Foursquare, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, Google+, and everywhere in between. Make sure that you are only presenting them with information you would be proud to share. Photos of last night's shenanigans at the bar? Maybe not the most appropriate display of yourself. So leave it off of social media platforms.

Consider cleaning up your social media sites. Although it can be daunting, it's definitely worth it. Always ask yourself, is this something you would want your parents, bosses, or children to see? If the answer is no, then it's not worth sharing online (and maybe not worth doing in the first place).

Things I recommend keeping off of social media include:
1. Controversial viewpoints (you wouldn't walk into an interview and start talking about your opinion on politics or religion, so keep it off of social media!)
2. Personal conversations (you also wouldn't go into an interview and tell them all about personal issues, so why share it online?)
3. Photos of you (or your friends) drinking, wearing revealing clothing, or doing inappropriate things (so start untagging, my little gen-Y's!)
4. Confidential information (that goes for personal things as well as information about your previous employers)
5. Negative comments (I'm sure this goes without saying, but online bullying, or anything of that negative nature, is really not okay. Like my mama always said, if you have nothing nice to say, then say nothing at all!)
6. Any posts that would make you seem untrustworthy, lazy, immature, or overzealous

I also suggest NOT linking profiles together (e.g. when you post on Instagram and it shows up on Twitter because your two profiles are linked). I use Twitter for my professional life, but Instagram for my personal life (my Instagram is set to private). Although I'm not posting inappropriate things on Instagram, I don't want photos of my dog or last night's dinner showing up on my Twitter account. It's definitely important to be aware that if you link your profiles together, what you share in one social media world can be seen in an other. Don't forget it!

Try to focus on posts that enhance your better self. Create relevant profiles that include your work experience, volunteer experience, or personal achievements. LinkedIn is an excellent tool to display your work experience, and everything you would want an employer to know about you professionally. Blogging is an other great way to display engaging content that represents who you are, and Google+ can be a great tool for connecting with others.

If you are adamant about keeping your social media sites the way they are, consider using an alias name, or changing your privacy settings to make it difficult for others to look you up. Also, remember that most employers will check up on you on social media sites. Be sure to not call in sick then go out partying that night, or you might find yourself fired by Monday morning. Honesty is the best policy, and reliability is key.

So, at the end of the day, remember that it isn't oversharing that will hurt you, it's sharing things that will make you look like a bad hire that will come to bite you in the butt!

Comment below, and let me know your thoughts. Do you have any other suggestions for using social media effectively?


Monday, 10 November 2014

These are the days

My life might not get any better than this.

Living downtown.
In post-grad studies.
Making new friends.
Spending time with old friends.
On a professional committee.
Loving my roommate.
Going to church.
Spending time with family.
Walking my dog more.
Seeking an internship.

I love my life, and this is quite possibly the happiest I've ever been. I've made amazing changes in the last year. I've taken a lot of leaps of faith, and they've all been for the better.

It's so easy to take all the little things for granted. It's so easy to get caught up in the craziness of life and begin to feel overwhelmed. All the appointments and deadlines and commitments, they can consume you if you let them. Simply take a step back, breathe, and think about all the great things you have going for you. Stress less about the scheduling, and be grateful for the gifts you have. Make a list and keep it on your mirror as a constant reminder that life is good, and these are the reasons why... x, y, z.

Five years from now, my life is probably going to look completely different. I might be married, or have children, or I might live in a completely different part of the world. I need to appreciate everything in my life right now, because before I know it, it could all change. I started high school over a decade ago, and I thought life was great then. It's crazy how time flies.

I can't imagine my life being any better than it is this year. Ten years from now I want to look back on being 24 and remember how amazing this year has been. I want to make that list and keep it somewhere safe. Who knows, maybe I'll look back at that list when I'm 34 and think, "and I thought life was great then".

This really is the time of my life.

Give up your seat

I overheard a man on the bus talking about how disrespectful young people are these days, and how back in his day, the youth cared a lot more about the world and about the older generation. Personally, I felt a little offended, because I had jut given up my seat to an older woman. I didn't see where this anger was suddenly stemming from, but alas, he continued to say,  "kids from this generation are hopeless. They'll look you straight in the eye like they don't give a shit". I wanted to retaliate. I wanted to say to him, "That's not true. I give a lot of shits". But I didn't. I stood there and listened as he spoke ill of my generation and grouped us negatively as a whole.

Us, the Generation Y, the Millennials, the kids born from the 80's to Y2K, are known for a lot of things. We're known for being self-entitled, disrespectful, and narcissistic. We're stereotyped as lazy, coddled, and disengaged. We're generation "me".

Unfortunately, I have to agree with all of these things. As a whole, compared to the generations before us, we kind of suck. There is even scientific evidence to support how much we suck. But this isn't always the case! And it doesn't have to be like this. I think it's easy for society to focus on the negatives. To focus on that one time where a young man didn't give his seat to an elderly man on the bus. However, I prefer to think of the positives.

I have a friend who helped open a not-for-profit bistro café in downtown Hamilton called 541. Helping to run that café are over 70 volunteers, and 80% of those volunteers are under the age of 35. I don't know about you, but I'm going to go ahead and argue that we clearly do care, or at least some of us do. We care about the poor, the disenfranchised and the marginalized. We want to help, and we want to make a difference.

Because most of us played team sports as children, or were involved in play groups and social clubs, we're team oriented. We value teamwork and we look for reassurance and encouragement from other people. We want to build up one an other, we won't leave anyone behind, and we're committed to being inclusive. I've found this most recently in my college program. I expected the program to be very competitive, but I've been surprised by the complete opposite. We all work together on assignments, bounce ideas off one an other, study together, party together. We're a team, a family, and we sure as hell aren't going to leave one of our family members behind.

Thanks to our parents, we were pampered and primped. Our parents didn't want to make the same mistakes that their parents did. Therefore, we were coddled, and damn, did we enjoy it! This might seem like a negative quality to you, but I see a silver lining here. Thanks to our parents attentive nurturing, we're confident, ambitious, and we strive to achieve. We have high expectations of our employers, our professors, and essentially anyone who interacts with us. We aren't afraid to challenge them, and to make them strive to be better. We want meaningful work, and that's what we will get.

When I overheard the man complaining about my generation on the bus, I wish I had spoken up. I wish I had started a healthy debate and argued to all of our positives. Maybe I could have provided some insight, or maybe I would have looked disrespectful for challenging him. Either way, we are who we are, and we aren't all bad.

I encourage you all to go out and prove the other generations wrong about us. Go volunteer, get politically involved, and please, give up your seat to the older people on the bus.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Look for a lifestyle- not a job.

When I knew that I was going to leave my job, I started looking for jobs relevant to my degree. They were all offering low wages, long hours, a lack of job security, no benefits, and a ton of responsibility. Why on earth would I ever want to leave that field, right? Wrong.

I took a risk and decided to change career paths- entirely. Yes, you read that correctly. After my four years of university, 43 essays, 35 final exams, and countless sleepless nights of hard work, I decided to leave behind all of it and move on to something new.

The thought of this terrified me, so I would understand if it would terrify you too. It's safe to stay where you are. It's safe doing what you know. It's comforting to be safe- to feel safe. But maybe being safe isn't always a good thing. Maybe risks can be a good thing.

I believe that if you aren't doing something you love with your job, why do it at all? Life is too short to work day in and day out doing something you have partial feelings about. You should be passionate about your career! Just imagine waking up every morning EXCITED to go to work! What a dream that would be! Well, believe it or not, that dream can actually be a reality.

It's important to look for a lifestyle, and not just a career. Do you want to work 9 to 5? Do you love being around people? Do you love to travel? Cook? Be outdoors? Read and comment on strangers blogs? What ever you love to do, what ever your passions are, you should try to incorporate them into your career. And believe me, the dream career is out there, just waiting for you to grab it. For example, I have a big passion for helping at-risk youth in my community. However, I found it really stressful to work with them every day- especially because I took the work home with me. Luckily, I came up with this genius plan to go into public relations. Now I can work for  youth instead of with them, and I'll still be doing something that I'm passionate about.

Making the change to public relations was the best decision I've made in a long time. Yes, it was a risk, but it's been so worth the risk. I've found a career within the lifestyle I love. I can write, be creative, meet people, and I have the opportunity to work for youth in my community. It's a win-win situation!

I encourage you all to analyze yourself. Think about who you are, what you love, and what you would want most out of a career. Be honest. If you want to lay around on a beach, or stay at luxury hotels, there is actually a career out there that targets those things. Make your career about the lifestyle you want. Make changes to your career path if you need to. Take risks. And always remember that life is too short to not love the career path you're on.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Where to Start the Job Hunt

Countless young people have been going to university or college for the sake of it. Your parents tell you to go, and all your friends are going, so why not go, right? You have no idea what you want to do, so off you go for a four year sociology degree, or a history diploma, or a poli-sci degree.

At the end of it all, you have a degree/diploma in hand and think, 'great, now what?' Suddenly all of that work that you put into your education seems so useless. You have no job prospects, and no idea what you want to do with this fancy piece of paper that says you're a well educated citizen.

I've had the same conversation with many graduates now, where we all seem to say, "Great, I officially have the most useless degree in the world." I don't know about you, but I certainly felt this way after graduating too.

It's scary when you have no plan and you consider the number of jobs out there! How are you supposed to know which one is for you?

My suggestion: go online and spend a day (or two) reading through job postings. Read the descriptions. Research the average salary. Consider the hours. Shadow someone. Find out all the nitty gritty details about the career.

Is there opportunity to climb up the ladder to a higher position within the field? What are the pros of the career? What are the cons? Who's hiring who? Are people happy in this career? What's the turnover rate? Are there special certifications for this career? Find out as much as you can about every job that seems appealing to you. Even if you don't have the qualifications for it, I encourage you to research it.

Don't look through the postings with something specific in mind. Just look! Look at everything. If you narrow your search down to one specific career, you might miss out on something great that would suit you perfectly- a job that you didn't even know existed!

I did this, and ended up realizing that a career in public relations is exactly where I want to be. Yes, I have to go back to college for a year. No, PR doesn't exactly relate to my degree in child and youth studies. But it could! Depending on where I take my career in PR, I could end up working for a not-for-profit organization that supports children, or even doing PR for a school board.

So start looking to see what's out there! Do your research, and you might realize that your "useless degree" isn't so useless after all.

Don't know where to start? Try local job postings on:

For not-for-profit jobs I highly recommend

I hope you feel inspired to start looking, and hopefully this helps you narrow down your search!

Let me know how it goes!