When Your Employer Tells You to Dress Sexy


What would you do if your manager told you to shorten your skirt a little?  Sadly, this has been the reality for many women who work as servers in Canadian restaurants.  They have been reporting that their workplace requires them to wear revealing clothing.  Since the current labour market favours the employer, it makes it challenging for employees to stand up for themselves when their employer crosses the line.  Here are some tips to help you handle this difficult situation in a way that will allow you to keep both your dignity and your job:

Clarify the expectations.  Just because everyone else is wearing revealing clothing and your manager seems to encourage it does not necessarily make it a requirement.  Try not to jump to conclusions.  Ask your manager what the expectations are in terms of the dress code.  Only after you are clear on your employer’s requirements can you determine whether or not it will work for you.

Express your concerns.  It is important that you let your manager know how you feel about the dress code.  They may have no idea that it makes you uncomfortable.  If you politely explain to your manager how it makes you feel, they might be willing to make an exception or change the expectation altogether.

Make a decision.  If your manager is unwilling to budge, then you have a choice to make; do you stay or do you go?  You might decide that you are willing to accept the revealing clothing as part of the job, you could hand in your resignation today, or you may decide to tolerate the dress code until another opportunity presents itself.  The key is to make your decision and move on; try not to allow resentment to grow.

Throughout your career, situations will come up that will both push and test your boundaries.  It is up to you to decide where you are willing to compromise and where you are not.  While it’s important for you to pick your battles, you should never do anything that contradicts your fundamental values.  If an employer demands that you cross that line, the job is probably not right for you anyway.

(Written by Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)


Make this Mistake and You’re Fired!


Most managers are fairly understanding when their employees make mistakes.  The key is to admit to them and to learn from them.  However, there is one mistake that few managers will overlook; dishonesty.  This includes lying, falsifying documentsand stealing. Of all the mistakes you can make at work, this is the one that will end your career:

Someone will find out.  Even if you feel like your small indiscretion is a one time event, it often doesn’t play out that way.  Once you make the decision to do something ‘off the books’, it becomes far too easy to do it again.  It doesn’t take long for it to become a part of your day to day routine.  You may not get caught today or even tomorrow, but sooner or later, someone will figure it out.

You will lose your job.  Most employers handle dishonesty with quick dismissal and they are completely within their rights to terminate your employment.  Few employers will be willing to give you a second chance if they believe that you are lacking integrity.

You will lose the reference.  The implications of this mistake can go far beyond losing your job.  If you are terminated for theft or for falsifying documents, your employer would not be able to provide you with a reference for future employment.  This could make it difficult for you to find a job.

The sad reality is that we can’t change the past.  If you have made a big mistake at work, you have to do your best to move on.  If this mistake caused you to lose your job then you need to find a way to explain it to potential employers.  It may take some time, but you can rebuild your credibility.

(Written by Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

What’s Next for Your Career?


Is it time for a change?  Even if you are comfortable in your job, you might be ready for your next adventure.  Making a career change can be tricky; you don’t want to have any regrets.  Here are some tips that will help you find a career that inspires you:

Start small.  When making a career change, it is easier to take it one step at a time.  If there is an industry or occupation that intrigues you, start volunteering or working on a part time basis.  This will allow you to see if it’s a good fit for your skills and if it’s something that you enjoy.  Also, as you make connections and build relationships in your industry, job opportunities may become available to you.

Do research.  You have to do your research.  You need to make sure that the jobs that you are targeting are actually in demand.  Even if you are the perfect candidate, it will be difficult for you to find a position if there are not a lot of jobs available.  Do searches for your target job and see how many positions are open in your region.  Also, check out Ontario Job Futures to research the labour market outlook for any job or industry.

Know what’s important to you. When you are choosing a career, it is important that you consider the impact that it will have on your life.  If work-life balance is a priority for you, find a job that won’t require you to put in a lot of extra hours.  If you hate commuting, find a job that’s nearby.  Sometimes in the excitement of the job search process, job seekers make sacrifices that they later regret.   

Be open minded.   If you don’t know what you want to do, then this is actually a very exciting time for you.  While it’s true that finding a job is a lot more difficult when you’re not focused, if you approach it in a positive way, it can open you up to a lot of new opportunities.   Try to set aside your opinions about different occupations and to look at them with fresh eyes.  You may find that a job opportunity that that was right in front of you all along may actually be a perfect fit for your skills and values.

Talk to people. The people you know are always your best source of job opportunities.  This is particularly true when you don’t know what you want.  Talk to your friends and family about your career plan and ask them for their feedback.  They may be aware of a great option that you haven’t even considered.   

Making a career change is both an exciting and a scary time in your life.  The key to making a good decision lies in finding a balance between careful preparation and taking a leap of faith.  Good luck!


(Written by Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of Master isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Get a Job Through Your Network


Does anyone ever actually get a job through their network?  The answer is a resounding YES!  If you are willing to put the time and effort into building and maintaining your network, it will bring you results.  Here are some tips that will help you build a network that will land you a job:

Be clear about your goals.  Your network can open a lot of doors for you, but it can only help if you have a clear sense of the type of job you want.  When you are specific about the position that you are seeking or the company that you want to work for, it is easier for the people in your network to find ways to help you.

Consider everyone you know as a networking contact.  The best opportunities can come from the most unlikely sources.  Sit down and make a list of all the people who you come into contact with.  Make sure that you include family friends, the parents of your children’s friends, the lady who you always make small chat with when you are walking your dog, and anybody else with whom you’ve built a relationship.  When you are chatting with these people, try to steer the conversation to your career.  Let them know what you have done and what type of position you are seeking.  Ask them about their career and see if there is any way that you can be of assistance to them.  The best networking contacts are people who you have helped.

Have one coffee date a day.  The key to effective networking is to be consistent with it.  A little bit of effort each day is all you need to build a vibrant professional network.  With networking, there is nothing more powerful than face-to-face meetings.  When you make the time to meet individually with the people in your network, they are more likely to connect you to potential opportunities.  Create a list of your networking contacts and schedule at least three coffee meetings  a week (if not one a day).  You may be surprised by how many doors these coffee meetups open for you.

Use social media to communicate.  When used effectively, social media is a powerful tool for job seekers.  You can use it to keep in touch with people in your network and even to build new relationships with people who work at your target companies.  Social media is most effective if you are consistent in your efforts.  Make a plan for what you want to achieve through social media and work on it a little bit each day.

Most job seekers shy away from networking, but it is the most effective way to find a job.  If you are strategic in your efforts and you give back to your network, the people in your network can connect you with opportunities that you didn’t even know existed.

(Written by Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

How to Grow Your Network


Many job seekers are reluctant to network, but the reality is that networking is the most efficient and effective job search strategy.  If you want to get a good job quickly, then you need to invest time into networking.  The more people who are in your network, the more opportunities will be available to you.  Here are some tips to help you grow your network:

Join a professional association.  Many of these associations have networking events where you can meet other people who work in your industry.  If you attend these events and nurture the relationships that you build, it won’t take long for you to create a strong network.

Volunteer.  Find an organization that you would like to support and start volunteering.  You can make strong connections when volunteering especially when you are working with a lot of different people.  Also volunteer work gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge, skills, and professionalism.

Ask your contacts for help.  Although the people in your network are probably happy to assist you, the truth is that they may not even know that you need their help.  Ask a few of your contacts out for coffee and tell them what type of job you are looking for.  See if they know of anyone who might be hiring someone with your skills and experience.  You may be surprised by the doors that you can open just by asking.

Help others.  Networking works with the spirit of reciprocity, which means that if you go out of your way to assist the people in your network, they will also support you.  You may think that if you’re not working, you have no means to help somebody with their career but that’s not true.  Think about the people in your network; would any of them benefit from meeting each other?  Also, keep your eyes open and if you see an article or a job posting that may interest someone in your network, send it to them.  Once you start focusing on assisting others, you will find that opportunities just open up for you.

Use social media.  Social media gives you the opportunity to connect with people in your industry who would otherwise be inaccessible to you.  Join industry groups and participate in discussions.  You want to position yourself as someone who is knowledgeable and engaged in your industry.  Do company searches and reach out to people who work at your target companies.  If you are direct, respectful and your profile looks professional, most people will be open to talking to you.

Networking is more about quality than quantity; a few strong connections are more valuable then a bucket full of acquaintances.  However, if you strive to nurture strong relationships with each person you encounter, you can create a large network of people who are committed to your success.

(Written by Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of ddpavumba at Freedigitalphotos.net)

How to Read a Job Description

ID-100111821Looking for a job is a challenging and competitive process.  To stand out, you need to make use of every tool at your disposal.  When used effectively, the job description can be a valuable source of information.  Here are some tips to help you use the job description to present yourself as the best possible candidate:

Review the requirements.  To be competitive in this job market, you should have most, if not all, of the requirements for the positions that you are applying for.  You might be able to get away with missing one or two of the lower priority items or anything that is listed as an asset.  Make sure that you highlight all of the requirements that you do possess prominently in both your resume and your cover letter.

Look at the responsibilities.  There may be things listed in the responsibilities that you haven’t done or that you don’t even understand.  Don’t let that scare you.  Decide if the position looks like something that you could do (and would want to do).  If you have done any of these tasks in previous positions, be sure to highlight it on your resume.

Identify any requests. Employers are often quite specific about how they want to receive applications.  They may request that you download your resume through their online application system or they may ask you to include a reference number or salary expectations in your cover letter.  It is important that you follow these directions because it makes it more likely that the employer will see your resume and it also shows that you have read the job description.

Pay attention to the details.  Before submitting an application, review the details  of the job, such as the days and hours that you will be expected to work, working conditions, location, working hours, and salary.  Usually the employers mean what they say, so if there are any deal breakers here, don’t apply.

Everything else.  Most job descriptions will include a lot of information about the company and about the soft skills that are required for the job.  While some people view this stuff as ‘fluff’, there is valuable information here.  The company information can tell you about the organization’s values and where it is headed.  The soft skills that are listed can give you a clue about what it would be like to work in that organization.  For example, if they are looking for a ‘team player’ then it probably means that you would be required to work and compromise quite a bit with your coworkers.  If they are looking for someone who is ‘customer focused’, then it is likely a position where the customers will be placing a lot of demands on you.  The key is to learn to read between the lines.


(Written by Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of Basketman at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

What You Need to Know About Your Target Companies


A huge part of successfully finding a job is doing your homework.  You need to have an understanding of the companies that you are targeting if you are going to be a competitive candidate. You should be spending at least a few hours researching your key companies before even submitting your resume.  You can use this information when customizing your resume and cover letter and at your interview.  Here are some areas where you can focus your research:

Company mission and organizational culture.  Even companies with the same products and services can be drastically different in the way that they conduct business.  It is important that you understand the company’s mission so that you know what to emphasize when approaching them.  Most companies post a mission statement on their website.  The organizational culture is also key because it can give you a good sense of what it would be like to work at the company.  The best way to get an understanding of the organizational culture is to talk to people who have worked there.  Look at your contacts on your LinkedIn profile and see if you are connected to any current or previous employees.  Be professional and clear about what you need and they will probably be willing to share that information with you.

Key products and services.  You need to have a good understanding of exactly what the company does.  Go through the website and make yourself clear about what products and services the company is providing to their customers.  It is also good to know what role your job would have in delivering these products and services.

Organizational structure. Depending on the company, you may find it difficult to understand the organizational culture.  Look at the different divisions, locations and subsidiaries and try to decipher the relationship between them.  You should also try to understand the reporting relationships so that you know who your position would report to.

Industry information and key competitors.  If you have been working in the field for a while then you probably already have a strong understanding about the industry.  However, if this is your first job, or if you are changing industries then you have some work to do.  It is important that you understand the challenges that the organization is facing and that you can demonstrate some knowledge of the industry.  Read lots of industry material so that when you are in the interview you can show the employer that you ‘get it’.

Career paths.  Of course the whole reason that you are doing all of this work is to get a job.  You need to understand the advancement opportunities within the company so you know how this position would fit in with your future career goals.  Try to get a sense of the career paths of most of the employees that start in the company.  Many interviewers will ask where you see yourself in five years.  It would be great if you answer that question with a realistic goal of attaining a specific position within the company.

Many job seekers skip the company research because they feel that it’s not important.  Instead they invest their time into uncovering job leads.  While it is important to find and apply for a lot of opportunities, they won’t turn into job offers unless you impress the employer and you can only impress the employer if you understand the company.

(Written by Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)