December 17, 2013

Get horizontal: Amazing reads for the holidays

It's the time of year when you're ready to loose your shit. The best way to ring in the new year is on your couch. A thought-provoking book pairs well with your horizontality. Here are three short and sweet Lindsay-approved recommendations:

Authors: Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

If Apple is the gold standard for design, then 37signals is the gold standard for progressive workplace policy. This may sound boring, but wait, the book reads like fiction because it describes a workplace utopia where people are super-productive and have amazing work-life balance. Much of the advice is from the authors' own company but and they also do a great job at highlighting other cool organizations. If you haven't read their other books, read them now.

Into Thin Air 
John Krakauer
A journalist's personal account of a disastrous hike on Mount Everest. Reading this book stirs up your sense of adventure while eliminating those fleeting work-related thoughts that may pop into your mind during holiday time. From the very first page, you'll be drawn in by this book's intensity and raw emotion. Trust me, there's nothing on Netflix that even comes close.

The Alchemist
Paulo Coelho
Did you read this book when you were in school? I don't care. Read it again. It's the best book to get inspired and recharged. Without being cheesy, it's an entertaining fable about achieving your potential. This book is perfect for those seeking refuge from family members over the holidays. Check it out on Audible; it's narrated by Jeremy Irons. British voices make everything sound magical and amazing.

November 10, 2013

Career advice inspired by Toronto's crack-smoking mayor

Toronto is officially known for it's crack-smoking mayorFrom being videotaped with local gangsters to uttering offensive remarks while in a "drunken stupor," Mayor Rob Ford has everybody talking, both nationally and internationally.

Yes, the whole story is absurd, but what are you known for?

I took this photo of the Toronto skyline while aboard the Toronto Island Ferry. 
This hilarious scandal tells us a lot about people's mental associations or schemas about certain topics.

When people heard "Toronto" they used to think "Canada" or "polite."

Now, when they hear "Toronto" they think "crack."

When people hear your name or come across your online identity, what do they think?

It's worthwhile to think about how you want to be perceived and take steps to make it happen. This may seem link a daunting task. Don't worry, start with a few small (but impactful) steps. Here are some ideas:

1) Suss out your competition aka "Find Similar" on LinkedIn

For inspiration, input your own name in the search box on LinkedIn and then click on the tiny "Similar" hyperlink. Suss out your competition. These people are supposedly similar to you in terms of prior roles, education, or training. How do you match up? How can you showcase your accomplishments better than them? 

2) Develop a tagline

The tagline Mayor Ford tries to convey is "saving the taxpayer money." He repeated this tagline multiple times during the press conference where he admitted smoking crack. Think about what your tagline should be and add it to your resume and your personal business card. Moo is the best site on earth for business cards if your company doesn't give you any. They also come in handy to present yourself as a gun for hire independent of the work you do for your current employer.

3) Live up to your tagline by creating content

The majority of online content about Mayor Ford is of him falling over or talking about getting high. It's 2013 yet many people do not create enough online content that favourably represents their professional identity. If you prefer to use your blog for a more personal audience, consider an or landing page. They don't take long to make and you can add the link to your gmail signature. This will make you look more professional in email correspondence.

November 03, 2013

Say no to zombies and re-discover your inner creativity

Why are people preparing for the zombie apocalypse? It has already happened. Have you been to the white-collar working world? It's like the Bermuda triangle of creativity and innovation. Thousands of employee-zombies plague the workforce with their lack of inspiration and constant vibe that they're just going through the motions of life, acting as though this is normal behaviour. I say no to that and no to Zombies.

I've been thinking a lot about creativity lately. I watched this depressing Ted Talk where this former professor bashes formal education arguing that school prevents kids from being creative. Ten minutes into the Ted Talk my mind stopped paying attention to the video and I realized that I used to consider myself a very creative person but I no longer feel that way anymore. Creativity is pretty important in the startup where I work so I sought to strengthen my creative muscles.

My creativity trainer is a tiny book called Steal Like An Artist. Buy this book right now and put it on your coffee table. (There's a Ted Talk by the book's author, but trust me, the book is better). With its 10 thought-provoking mantras, the book feels like a remixed artist version of Re-Work by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. (Re-Work is actually included in the Recommended Reading section of this book). Filled with inspiring quotes and illustrations, the author, Austin Kleon urges us to create two workspaces for ourselves. A digital one to turn our ideas into tangible work and an analog one complete with markers, flashcards, and notebooks to foster brainstorming and creativity. Kleon argues for these separate spaces because creativity doesn't occur on a computer screen. He writes:
 "The computer brings out the uptight perfectionist in us - we start editing ideas before we have them."
So true! I thought back to my university days where I'd be on the floor of my room, writing incessantly with different colour highlighters on white sheets of printer paper. I'd put all my seemingly disconnected ideas on paper and Scotch-Tape them to the walls of my room. Then, in a fury, I'd somehow configure my seemingly disconnected ideas into something original, sensical, and whole. My housemates feared I was having a nervous breakdown. No, this was my creative analog process and I didn't even know it. I'm going to revisit that method and see what comes out of it! What do you do to stimulate your creativity?

May 07, 2013

Badass Business Books Written by Women

I've decided to tell you about two of my favorite business books written by women; they're highly entertaining and read like fiction.

Normal Gets You Nowhere
Author: Kelly Cutrone
You may remember Kelly Cutrone from reality TV shows like The Hills where she is portrayed more as a nutcase then a genius. Her book is painfully honest, practical, and hilarious. You'll be inspired by Cutrone's wisdom and bravery. Read it now.

Women, Work, & the Art of Savoir Faire
Author: Mireille Guiliano
Mireille Guiliano draws on her experience as former CEO of Veuve Cliquot (now LVMH) to provide  great career and life advice - but in a more refined manner as compared to Kelly Cutrone. Guiliano has mastered the art of writing about herself; after reading the book you'll feel like you know her personally.

March 03, 2013

Staying Relevant 101: How to Avoid Getting F*****d in the Working World

The working world can be a rough place. Today's economy requires you to think about your career as though it's a startup and you're the CEOYet many people I talk to are completely delusional. There are a number of things you can do to stay ahead of the game or at the very least, stay afloat.

Help the Algorithms Creep You
A new wave of recruitment technology, such as Entelo and TalentBin, designed to determine if you're a rockstar of your profession and predict when you will leave your job so that employers can reach out to you with the right opportunity at the right time. To do so, these sites are creeping your social media streams and creating composite profiles of you right now. Check out this Forbes article that explains the idea of talent-scouting algorithms in greater depth.

February 02, 2013

The Real Life Don Draper Tried to Hire Me

An alternate name for this post is "How to Recruit like a 1960's Jackass."

It all started with LinkedIn. 

I received a message from an executive and read it a few times because I thought it was intended for someone else.

To make this more fun, I took screenshots:

January 10, 2013

Screen Yourself In: 4 Ways To Make Your Application Interview-Worthy

This article originally appeared on, Canada’s leading job board and online career resource for students and recent graduates.

Navigating the world of resumes and cover letters is like trying to do an assignment without any guidelines from your professor. At school, expectations were always more clear cut. If you wrote an organized and well-researched paper, you’d get a decent – if not a great mark.
Job hunting is a different story. Nothing has prepared you for the game of resumes and cover letters. When you don’t hear back from employers after applying, it’s hard to know what needs improvement.

We recently completed a round of hiring at the company I work for and, based on my experience, I’d like to share some resume and cover letter tips that will help you land your next job interview.

1. Pretend you're on Twitter
If your cover letter was a tweet, what would it say? Get right to the point. 

Lose the, “…I’m applying for the ABC position at EFG Corporation that was posted on the student careers website of University XYZ.” 

Writing this sentence on Twitter would be a total waste of characters; instead, your cover letter should start with your pitch: “I’d be a great fit for the ABC position because XYZ.” 

Stop saying that you have “strong analytical skills” and instead analyze the job description, and craft some very concise and compelling statements demonstrating why you should be interviewed.

2. Ditch the R2-D2 vibe
Write a cover letter the way you would write a blog post – using a human voice.

Read your cover letter out loud. Now read a post from your blog out loud. Notice a difference? Your cover letter is written in a robotic voice that you may think sounds professional. It’s not. You invite employers to check out your blog, yet they won’t click the link because they’ve already seen your writing via your cover letter and, let me tell you, they’re not impressed.

Remove the words “strong communication skills” and “strong writing skills” from your application and just write a persuasive cover letter. Walk the walk.

3. Lose your laundry lists
Why does your resume include laundry lists of each daily task you performed for all the jobs you’ve ever had? If you were a part-time receptionist while you were in university, anyone who looks at your resume will know that you answered the phone. What made you good at this job? How did you stand out?

Recruitment experts rant about this resume problem all the time, yet it came up so often in the round of hiring we just did. According Andy Porter, HR executive and prominent recruitment blogger, candidates should always pitch themselves as accomplishers as opposed to doers.

To land an interview, it’s important that employers see you as a the quarterback as opposed to the kid that gets picked last in schoolyard games. In other words, stop reducing yourself to a laundry list; you’re better than that!

Your achievements are always more compelling. Make achievements the focal point of your resume and cover letter, and cut out the rest.

4. Stop the resume firing squad
We all know the drill: modify a few resume buzzwords, change the company name and job title on your cover letter, and fire off multiple applications into cyberspace.

Instead, opt for a quality-over-quantity approach by applying to a few positions very well. Standing out requires more time than you may be spending right now. The applications we received shortly after we announced a job posting were inferior to the ones which were sent after a few days.

In the end, all of the applicants we interviewed took a bit more time to write something convincing.

Photo Credit: "Angry Businessman Throwing Documents" by  NejroN on iStockphoto