My Kitchen is Clean, and Nobody is Coming Over!

Here’s a dirty little secret that many women aren’t willing to share: we aren’t all neat freaks. Despite my mother’s best training and ongoing exasperation, I am one of them. Here I am, firmly in mid-life, and my mom, who turns 75 this year, still feels she can come over and clean my fridge, or wash the walls, to “support me”. In the world of mother-daughter relationships, this signifies all kinds of anxiety-ridden, passive-aggressive baggage – I know. And I have let her, because it is one way that she can express her love for me. You can imagine what a pre-cleaning cleaning frenzy I go through each time this happens. My sons know this as the “Grandma clean-up”, and I am certainly passing my neuroses onto them.

Here’s the pattern. Grandma is coming over, so we make sure the dishes are picked up from the table, the bedrooms and the living room, and put in the dishwasher. We consolidate game controllers and make sure all those green rectangular game cases are back on the shelf. Books! They are everywhere – and I make piles of them, and banish the ones that don’t have a home yet off to my bedroom, with the mismatched socks and the laundry that hasn’t been put away yet (at least I have already folded it). We run around with a grocery bag for wrappers and straws, and a damp cloth to take the sticky bits off the tables. I sweep and mop the floor, and one son runs the vacuum while another attacks the bathrooms. All this can be done in an hour or less – so why do I wait for an occasion to do it? Why do I teach my kids, tacitly, that a consistently clean and tidy home is for OTHER people?

This is no epiphany. I have recognized this pattern in my life since I left home nearly 30 years ago. But this year is the first year that I am the Adult in my home. Before, I was waiting for some Prince Charming that I could serve (oh yeah, let’s not go there), or I was in a relationship and hoping that Prince Charming would lend a hand (one did, and one decidedly didn’t). This year, there’s me and my kids. And sometimes, like this weekend, there’s just me.

Well, guess what? I like a clean kitchen. I’m not waiting for anyone to come over to wash and put away the pots and pans, to get rid of the compost and to sweep up the crumbs from toast. I am worth a shiny sink or two. It calms me and helps me concentrate to be in an orderly house. Cleaning it is not an act of subservience if I’m doing it for me. I may never be a neat freak, but I can give myself the gift of a home that I love to be in. 

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A quick presentation on Cybernetics

I’m not sure if this was entirely successful, in that we were only allowed to give the briefest of notes within the PowerPoint. After all, this is supposed to be designed as if we were presenting it with our own speech alongside. But I’ll tell you this – I LOVE the field of cybernetics! As a subsection of systems theory, it is fascinating. I could talk your ear off for a week about cybernetic systems, but instead, why don’t you take a look at the presentation and ask me a question? Next week, I’ll have finished the FAQ assignment for this course, and I’ll post that too, in case you are as taken with it all as I am.

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A quick thumbs-up for “The Flying Troutmans”

The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book dug deep inside me and has held on, thanks to the wonderful characters of Hattie, Logan and Thebes. Their road trip is as much a journey to find themselves (certainly in Hattie’s case) and each other as it is to find the kids’ long-lost father, Cherkis. And while the characters are unusual, they are drawn with great compassion and realism – I found myself comparing my own children to the kids in this story. Miriam Toews is one of Canada’s very best authors.

I joined Goodreads a few months ago, but haven’t taken advantage of its many features yet. This morning, just as a warm-up before a long day of research, I gave five stars to The Flying Troutmans. If you are a reader and haven’t yet checked Goodreads out, click the link and try it for yourself. I’ll bet you find a few more books to put on your “want to read” list. 

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Having fun on the job search

Looking for a job isn’t usually very high up on the “fun things to do” list.  It can be stressful, not knowing how long you’re going to be in employment limbo, being unsure how much to scrimp while waiting for Employment Insurance to kick in, and making the first move and asking for information interviews.  But these things aside, I am definitely having fun!

Now is a good time to be a communications specialist.  Sure, most of the jobs are in larger centres like Vancouver and Toronto.  I need to stay in Victoria because this is where my family and loved ones are.  What’s more, I love it here.  Fortunately, I’ve found new communications positions being posted on average every 2-3 days, right here in Victoria!  Compared to job hunting here in the 80s, when Victoria had double-digit unemployment, and I was a new UVic grad, green as grass, this feels like a treasure hunt.

Part of the joy of this search is that I’m being strategic.  I started by talking to a friend who is also a Human Resources (HR) consultant.  Her name is Judith Frost, and she’s a gem. (gem… treasure…. Iknow. I couldn’t resist.)  We talked about my work history and my goals, and she pointed out that it’s probably time for me to move into a more established, institutional environment.  Somewhere with some built-in mobility, pensions (!) and enough scale to need communications staff.  So that rules out most of the small businesses in town, where I have spent my career over the past 8 years.  I’m now looking at the learning institutions, as well as local and provincial government.

My next move was to talk to a contact I’d made through Twitter, Melanie Friebel (@scribbler9 on Twitter) who works in recruitment for the BC Public Service.  Melanie and I have only met each other once or twice, so getting together over a glass of wine after work pushed our connection to a new level, and I’m so glad I did.  Not only did she point me in the right direction, I also feel like I made a new friend.

Melanie’s suggestion was that I chat with Pat McCallum, whose job it is to advise people looking for positions in government.  I spend a wonderful hour with him in a dark little office decorated with cardboard boxes (turns out he’s abandoning his government desk in order to telecommute, and I found him on one of his last days in the “shop”).  Pat had lots of great advice – read my next post for what he said – and I left there with a great to-do list for improving my hiring chances.

So now, I’m hunting for that gem of a job that I know is out there.  It might be at UVic, Royal Roads, Camosun, a government department, one of Greater Victoria’s many local governments, or a Crown corporation.  It might surprise me and come from a public or private school, an established tech company, or even one of the media outlets.  In the four weeks I’ve been looking, I’ve found easily a dozen that might do the trick… and those are the posted jobs.  Any pro job hunter will tell you that some of the best jobs aren’t even posted. 

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4 top tips for getting a job with the government

Are you looking for a position with some opportunity for growth, mobility and challenge?  Would you like a position with great benefits, a pension plan and relative security?  Then a government job might be for you.

I’ve worked for the private sector or non-profits for most of my adult life, so when a Human Resources (HR) expert told me to start looking at government jobs, I was a bit surprised.  Don’t I have to know how to be a “bureaucrat”?  Isn’t it next to impossible to get a government jobs in these times of austerity?

It turns out that the jobs are out there.  In Victoria BC, home of our provincial government, several jobs are posted each day.  For each of those jobs, the HR department expects to get 80 or more applications.  Here’s what the BC Public Service Recruitment Specialist, Pat McCallum, told me to improve my chances of getting on the shortlist.

1.  Adapt your resume for each specific job opening

Specifically, look for the specific requirements of the job, and show how your experience matches the requirements exactly.  Use the same words that appear in the job posting.  Here’s why: before your resume gets in front of any human resources staff, computers do an initial pre-screening based on keywords.  If the job you are applying for is asking for experience in risk management, and you have been a bank loans officer, it may seem obvious to you that you have experience in managing risk.  But if you don’t use those exact words in your resume, the computers may pass yours over.  Feel free to use a skills-based resume if that shows off your job experience more clearly.

2.  Arrange information interviews in the departments where you would like to work

Just because every government job is posted, don’t expect that your prospects will rise and fall on your resume only.  What you know is important – and your knowledge will improve greatly if you do your research by talking to people already on the job.  Notice this isn’t the same as “who you know”, though it may look the same.  You need to prove that your connections have given you better insight into the job, and not just ride on the fact that you share space in a dragon boat with a government director.  Make that connection count – take your dragon boat buddy out for coffee, and find out what she does with the rest of her day.  She will likely be happy to tell you about her department, and you will have that inside edge that the recruiters are looking for.

3.  Update your LinkedIn profile, and add new contacts as you make them

I can’t speak for all governments, but the B.C. government checks your LinkedIn profile, and looks for people that you know, especially people in government.  They want to know that you are familiar with the government culture and the people who work within it.  Once you have taken that director out for coffee, add them as a connection on LinkedIn if you haven’t already done so.  If you’ve enjoyed a working relationship with people already, then you may even want to ask for a recommendation.

While you are in LinkedIn, review your profile.  Does it broadly match what you have on your resume?  Is it 100% complete?

4. Be patient and adaptable

The gears in a large institution like the government turn more slowly than those in the private sector.  Even if you are successful, it may take a month between when the competition closes and your first day at work.   Apply for whatever looks likely to get your foot in the door, because once you are in government and have made it through the six-month probation period, the door opens wider and you can apply internally for positions that suit you even better.  Keep working on your resume, talking to people in government, and looking for ways to improve your hireability.

Who knows?  Maybe I’ll see you in the cubicle down the hall. 

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