2005年 02月 26日
"Get to Know Me" （BC Business ２月号）
"to get hired you must first sell yourself to the folks who will sell you"
少なくともバンクーバーでは、「地元の有名大学（UBCとか）を卒業したのに仕事がなくてスターバックスでコーヒー入れてる or 外国人に英語を教えてる」の類の話はたくさん聞いてきたのでもうすっかり慣れました。
Get to Know Me
Why advanced degrees are great, but they won’t get you hired.
From the February 2005 issue
It’s raining heavily on this Saturday morning in late September, a dreary daybreak typical of Vancouver in late autumn. Inside the main foyer of a downtown community college a long line of young women wait patiently to register for an event identified by big signs – featuring the silhouette of a long-legged female cartoon character, one hand on her hip, the other arm flung defiantly into the air – as Wildly Sophisticated Live.
Minutes later every seat in the event’s designated seminar room is occupied. A trim woman in her mid-30s, dressed in a black Wildly Sophisticated T-shirt, black pants and stiletto heels bounces up the centre aisle, stands behind the podium at the front of the room, pauses and then lets rip, her words breathless, conversational.
“A lot of people feel that ‘I am going to feel worthy, I’m going to feel complete, I’m going to feel successful once I have accomplished this big thing’ – whatever your thing is,” the woman tells the audience. “The joke is ‘worthy’ comes first, not second.
“‘Worthy’ isn’t a result of an accomplishment. You have to feel worthy of that accomplishment in order for that accomplishment to have any meaning for you. You’ve got to start personal in order to be professional. The basis of career success is you.”
Given the number of heads now bent over the workbooks, pens scribbling furiously, the words are hitting home.
What brings 150 young women together on a rainy Saturday morning to talk career development and self-empowerment (at $150 per person, no less)? Perhaps the answer is in the stylish woman herself: Nicole Williams, a Vancouver woman trying to build a connected and successful female work force, one self-actualized young woman at a time.
Williams, 34, is CEO and president of Wildly Sophisticated Media, the umbrella company under which seminars are arranged and her message of career self-empowerment is massaged and distributed. Williams also created and produces the career development reality show Making it Big (set for a series launch on Alliance Atlantis’s Life Network and Oprah Winfrey’s Oxygen Network in March 2005), where she appears as a Trump-like career benefactor. While not alone in tackling post-graduate career development, she is among the first to design a career development message specifically for the 18 to 34 demographic: the Sex and the City crowd.
Wildly Sophisticated’s language is plain and direct; Williams makes a concerted effort to avoid flowery self-help rhetoric in all WS outputs. Its look is sassy and glamorous. Its view of the world is rooted in the recognition that traditional rules of career development no longer apply.
“When our parents graduated from college or university – if they did at all because there were statistically fewer people graduating then – having gotten that degree essentially guaranteed a job,” says Williams. “That’s not the truth today. It takes more than that education to land a job, or build the career.”
Although this so-called ‘truth of the real world’ is often a shock for all graduates there is no version of WS for young men, no male-specific versions of Women in Film and Video Vancouver (WIFVV) or the Minerva Foundation, two Vancouver-based organizations striving to equip women with the tools they need to launch their careers.
“The intention of [women-specific] organizations like ours has been to [aid] career advancement for women, because we’re newer to the workforce than men,” notes Sara McIntyre, president of WIFVV. She goes on to say the organization recently received a reality check when an unofficial survey of WIFVV membership revealed that women in the film industry hadn’t moved much further ahead since the organization formed 15 years ago. “I don’t think it’s because men don’t need organizations,” says McIntyre, “but to move women forward, we need to network and build community.”
It’s not just gender that presents career development challenges. The struggle to identify where to begin a post-graduation career search is most acute among BA grads, of which women typically represent two-thirds, says Marlene Delanghe, career counsellor at UBC. “A lot of people choose law because it is all paved for you; you get your degree and at the end you article and it’s relatively straightforward from the outset.”
As Delanghe sees it, arts students are “wide thinkers” able to identify complex relationships between concepts and curious about a broader world. Unfortunately she also believes few arts students are able to identify a direct relationship between their BA and the job market. “I tell them, ‘You’re going to get frustrated with me, but people do incredible things with a BA, if they’re willing to work at it.’”
In turn Williams believes the key to career success is directly related to working at relationships: “Nothing is more important in 21st-century career building than relationships, and schools should be providing that opportunity to meet people in the industry, and there are some schools that are doing that, but not enough.”
For Williams, the most important lesson Wildly Sophisticated provides is that it is up to women to take control, build relationships, and make their careers happen.
Williams is right, says Joanne Ferreiro, director of human resources strategy at Telus: “I think what’s lacking, particularly among graduates with bachelors degrees, is the understanding of the importance of relationships, and how to manage relationships in such a way that they’re not simply a burden to other people. You can’t say, for instance, ‘I’m handing you my life and my career, please plan it for me.’”
But the ‘where to begin that process?’ question has many graduates stumped. Hence the need for direction, whether it’s professional and wildly sophisticated or simply wrinkled out through self-awareness and gumption. Or so believes Elizabeth Levine.
“A university education enables a student to be able to think, and tries to reinforce the fact that you do have the power to go out there and do it, but what it doesn’t reinforce is how to keep doing it, because it’s not as easy as waving your UBC grad ring or your Queen’s alumni card,” observes Levine, 28, who possesses both.
In the years following graduation Levine struggled through jobs that, although impressive on paper, left her unfulfilled. It was then she co-founded Beetle Box Media, a Vancouver-based digital media company whose recent projects include a documentary on the history of the Santa Claus Parade for Global Television and the Bravo!Fact film Comitium.
“You have to keep working at it, and that’s something you’re less prepared for coming out of university, especially for those who went through and didn’t find it difficult,” says Levine. “It creates the expectation that the real world will be that much easier.”
Women-focused career development organizations acknowledge the reality of job-hunting today. Want to be noticed? Stop obsessing about resumés and cover letters and pour your energy into getting noticed. Few methods are as effective as networking. A decade ago, it was not nearly as important to career building as it is today.
“You need to know people,” says Ferreiro. “You need to get opportunities through connections, and you need to segment a certain amount of time to making those connections and creating things that you can bring to make yourself a useful person to know.”
The importance of networking among women is why Williams ends each seminar with a ‘Drinks After Work’ event where participants toss back wine and distribute their business cards with newfound (liquid) confidence. It’s also why WIFVV hosts a monthly networking breakfast for members and non-members.
“If you think that you’re too shy for networking events, and you’re sending out resumés and waiting for a job to come your way, you’re going to be sadly disappointed,” says Williams. “Every one of my career opportunities has come as a result of networking.”
However, as essential as networking is, many young women feel they haven’t been naturally endowed with the ability to work a room. Just ask Marlene Haley, principal of Find Work You Love, a career counselling firm in Kitsilano: “The biggest thing I see with new grads is they get stuck on the stereotype of the networker as an effervescent, energetic extrovert. If they don’t automatically fit that profile, they give up.”
Haley – who has seen an increase in the number of recent graduates using her career coaching services – works with her clients to develop their own individual networking styles. Invariably, some would much rather stick forks in their eyes than attend a formal networking event; Haley suggests they begin by directing their networking closer to home. “Many people simply overlook a lot of the people they take for granted, like family and friends, and friends of friends.”
Information interviews are another career development tool. It requires far less people in attendance but has the potential for just as much nail-biting and fork-wielding. As the name implies, an information interview is conducted by a job seeker who wants insight into a given career or industry with no job strings attached.
“One of the challenges I encounter when dealing with new graduates is they often have stereotypes of careers, and they endup dismissing jobs far too quickly,” says Haley. “I have to caution them that within each career there can be variety, and the only way to get the real facts is through an information interview.”
Williams agrees: “For a novice, an information interview is all about learning. What are the most exciting parts of your job? What are the mundane parts? What skills do I need? You knock somebody’s socks off and they’re coming back to you with a job. People hire for bravery, for initiative, for action. In this day and age everybody’s talking about what they can do. The people who are actually acting it are the people who are going to get hired.”
But to get hired you must first sell yourself to the folks who will sell you. Although Ferreiro is a keen supporter of information interviews, experiences with unprepared graduates have made her reluctant to answer their call.
“I’ll welcome anyone to come in and talk to me if they’re well-organized and have some specific questions,” explains Ferreiro. “But to think they can spend the whole afternoon asking what they should do without bringing any questions is not a good sign.”
If the information interview sparks a connection, a grad could gain something more valuable than a prime Rolodex spot: she (or he) may earn a mentor – something which organizations such as the Minerva Foundation and WIFVV insist is essential to career development.
The Minerva Foundation was founded in 1999 to support B.C.’s women in fulfilling their potential. ‘Follow A Leader’ pairs female students and young professionals with powerful women in Vancouver, Victoria and Prince George for a weekend of workshops, conversation and reflection. In most cases the relationships last far beyond the initial introductions.
Sessions in October 2004 paired university students and young professionals with women such as Patricia Graham, editor-in-chief of the Vancouver Sun, Ida Chong, the then-B.C. minister of state for women’s and seniors’ services, and Victoria Symphony music director Tania Miller.
“What the community leaders bring is that sense of realism,” says Sue Matheson, chair of the ‘Follow A Leader’ program. “Young women want to take on the world and do it all; they think they need to be perfect, and what we know from experience is that failing and learning is absolutely key to development, so we actually encourage our community leaders to share stories of where they’ve messed up or made a mistake or fallen down, and what it was like for them to pick themselves back up and move forward.”
Although WIFVV’s ‘Moving Up!’ mentorship program has the same goals, the relationship is developed over eight one-hour meetings, with the relationship extending far beyond the formal stage, says program chair Sara McIntyre: “Sometimes what a career search is missing is affirmation, like telling somebody what you’re up to and where you’re headed and hearing, yes, you’re on the right track.”
Even McIntyre, a practising career coach and casting director of The Delicate Art of Parking, continues to turn to her mentor – professional career counsellor and longtime McIntyre family friend Barbara Kyle – during periods of career change and self-doubt. Says McIntyre: “[Kyle has] taken me under her wing and calls me up at key points in my life to talk things through.” It was Kyle who pushed McIntyre to complement her arts background with business expertise.
“It took about a year of her trying to sell me on this idea that business would be a good idea, and it was such a brain twister to watch myself sitting in a business class, and the funny thing is I loved it,” says McIntyre. “Knowing me, and being outside of myself, she knew it was the right thing for me to do.” For currently mentor-less women Williams’ Wildly Sophisticated seminars provide a hopeful starting point. Women such as Sherry Longstreth, 25, who drove up from Seattle that rainy Saturday morning for the sole purpose of thanking Williams for enabling her to see her own potential. Williams’s book was a lungfull of fresh air for Longstreth: “She makes it seem like anything is possible. I’d given up hope, but I’m dreaming again. I haven’t dreamed like this since before I left university.”
Longstreth’s story is typical of many of the women seeking refuge in the WS world. After graduating from university, she struggled desperately to find her feet in the career she desired (public relations). She ended up stuck in sales jobs she hated because she’d only ever worked in retail. She’s now a sales representative for a Seattle area non-profit organization.
“You can’t see from my resumé, without meeting me, who I am and what potential I could have. If you’re trying to sift through thousands of resumés you’re going to look for the one who has all the right bullet points,” says Longstreth. “I have some work experience, but none in the direction I want to go and I’m being pigeon-holed even though I have passion and drive and talent. I haven’t known where to begin.”
Organizations such as WS seminars, the Minerva Foundation and WIFVV provide that starting point in the form of a valuable lesson: the old rules no longer apply. It’s next to impossible to build relationships in a vacuum, at the drop of a hat or over the internet; in a perfect world, young women should be developing career-building relationships long before graduation day.
There is a gap between what many graduates expect when leaving school and the reality of career development, says UBC’s Delanghe. She invites students to use every resource available and to think about their career while they’re still in school, whether it’s with one-on-one sessions with career counsellors, workshops, speakers or information interviews. In turn, the ‘Future Mapping’ feature on the Career Services website lets students explore career questions and choices through a series of linked modules. Says Delanghe: “I try to make it simple for students and say ‘Start your process now, while you’re still in school’ and if I can get in front of a group of students in their first year, I use those same words – ‘start now’.”
An early start doesn’t mean going out and dropping your resumé off to thousands of employers while you’re still writing essays and tossing back beers in the student pub. Delanghe suggests self-examination – taking your everyday academic experience and putting it into a more concrete, career-related form.
“A degree is fabulous and I’m not going to discount that,” advises Delanghe. “I work in my private practice with people much older than the students, and anybody who doesn’t have a degree regrets it. So yes, we were right to tell our students this was a good investment, but what you have to do as a student is take the baton and run with it.”