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Tips for job interviewing while overseas

Job interviews can be challenging enough, but factor in time differences, shaky connections and unreliable technologies and it’s an even more daunting experience.

After spending more than half the summer overseas during a period when I was actively interviewing for a new gig, I’ve come up with a few tips for those who find themselves in the middle of a job search while outside the country.

  1. Make it clear you’re out of town

In my experience, most companies tend to reach out over the phone to schedule potential interviews so the last thing you’d want is to miss out on a job opportunity because you weren’t in a position to either take the call or check the voicemail after. That’s especially the case if you’ve chosen not to purchase a roaming plan while abroad.

I make a habit any time I’m out of town for more than a day to change my voicemail greeting to mention the dates I am away, the fact that I have little or no access to voicemail, and that email is the best way to reach me while I’m away. I’ll not only mention my email address in the voicemail greeting, but also spell it out just to make it easier on the caller.

  1. Bring your devices and always have a backup

I have a tendency to over pack whenever I go on a trip but the one thing I won’t compromise on is bringing my laptop. At any given time I’m usually working on some project or another and I just find I can do more on my laptop than on a smartphone or a tablet.

My laptop is also invaluable in the event I end up scheduling an online interview. It’s still my preferred tool for using Skype, but is versatile to allow me to install other programs as needed. I have had an online interview in the past with a company that chose to use a very specific program (one that maybe most might not have as part of their set of apps). My laptop is about five years old now but I haven’t run into any issues with downloading and installing new programs. I can’t say the same for some of my iDevices although generally when running the latest operating system you should be fine.

(Skype, I have found, seems to not recognize your login credentials unless you’ve updated to the latest version. Essentially, that’s made the Skype I had previously been running on my outdated iPad 2 to be worthless).

Either way, if you’re expecting you might have be taking part in an interview over the internet, make sure you’ve got multiple options available.

  1. Never rely on public WiFi

This one is arguably the biggest make or break when it comes to online interviews.

Your interview will only be as smooth as your connection is. My guess is, especially given the odd hours, you’re most likely going to hold your interview wherever you’re staying be it a hostel, hotel or a friend or family member’s place. Outside of the latter, I would suggest you’ll want to make sure you’ve got your own internet connection setup rather than rely on a public network.

Over the course of this summer I’ve done interviews everywhere from luxury resorts to hostels, from big cities to rural villages in the middle of nowhere, and the one thing they all have in common is unreliable WiFi. Some, admittedly, are better than others and probably could have sufficed. Others, however, would have been disastrous had I tried to rely solely on them.

One option to consider if you want to make sure you’ve got your own solid connection is to rent (or buy) your own mobile WiFi hub. These are often referred to as Pocket WiFi or Wifi Egg devices. I like these better than getting a separate sim card when you travel for a few reasons.

First, Pocket Wifi units allow you to easily connect multiple devices and you can usually purchase a plan that offers unlimited data and no speed caps. The travel sim cards that I’ve used in the past usually have data and speed cap limits, although perhaps there are better plans out there than the ones I’ve seen.

Second, travel sim cards require you to take out your existing sim card meaning you’re pretty much giving up on receiving calls during that time unless you plan to walk around with multiple phones. It’s also only a viable option for you if you happen to have an unlocked phone or device. The whole process of changing sim cards and making sure you don’t lose your original sim card is a bit of a nuisance as well.

Finally, the Pocket Wifi option works out even better if your service provider back home offers WiFi Calling. WiFi Calling essentially lets you use your phone as if you were at home if you’re connected to WiFi anywhere. That means you can place and receive calls, and send or receive text messages, without having to purchase a roaming package or pay exorbitant fees. I was pleasantly surprised to discover while I was in Japan trying to work out the details of a phone interview that my service provider, Rogers Wireless, actually does support WiFi Calling.

  1. Figure out your times, and get set up early

This one is a no-brainer, but is worth mentioning here still. This summer I’ve had interviews ranging from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. local time depending on where I happened to be in the world.

It’s important to arrange a time where you can be confident in knowing where you will be when the clock strikes. As an example, if you’re planning a late night out with and you’re relying on public transportation to get you back to wherever you’re staying, that might not be the best night to set your online interview.

You will also want to login ahead of time if for no other reason than to make sure there are no issues with your technology and that your WiFi connection is stable. I’d suggest at least 15-20 minutes before your scheduled start time which will give you enough time to come up with a quick contingency plan just in case something does go awry.

Thank you, SD43

Grateful.

There are so many words I can use to describe the past 13 months I’ve spent working at School District 43 in Coquitlam but ‘grateful’ comes to mind first and foremost.

I am grateful for the opportunity I’ve had in the last 13 months to work for an amazing organization.

I am grateful to have been mentored by a true communications expert who I’ve come to consider a mentor and a friend.

I am grateful to have met so many kind, friendly and generous colleagues and who made showing up to work every day an absolute pleasure.

Thirteen months ago when I arrived I knew that my time there would be limited because it was a limited-term contract to cover a maternity leave. But even with the ‘temp guy’ tag, it didn’t take long for me to feel comfortable in the role because of all the wonderful people I was surrounded by every day, not to mention a leadership team that really strived to make the workplace a positive one.

I also can’t say enough about my manager, Peter, who promised me 13 months ago when I started that he’d help make me a better communications professional by the time I finished.

If you ever have the chance to work with a supervisor who take an interest in – and is willing to help you with – your professional development take advantage of it. People like that are few and far between.

I will always be grateful for my time at SD43 and, if the stars align and the role is the right one, I would love nothing more than to be part of that work environment again.

As far as the immediate future goes, I’m focused on just one thing only right now…

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Smart moves highlight Canada Day for Canucks

By most accounts, Day 1 of the 2017 NHL Free Agency period was a success for the Vancouver Canucks and General Manager Jim Benning.

While adding five players – six if you include re-signing potential UFA Anton Rodin – who are all expected to be contributors at the NHL level might not seem like an appropriate tactic for a team on a so-called rebuild, I thought all their additions made on Saturday made good sense.

The signings of Sam Gagner and Michael Del Zotto give a team that finished with the second-fewest goal totals a year ago with an offensive boost both up front and on the back end, while Anders Nilsson fills the hole in net left by the departure of Ryan Miller while providing fans what they’ve been hoping to see now for a couple of seasons and that is a chance for Jacob Markstrom to run with the starting job.

Patrick Wiercioch is a solid, depth defenceman who comes with an inexpensive price tag and you can never have too many of those. Last season the Canucks used 10 different defenceman and the only one who appeared in all 82 games – Luca Sbisa – is now a Vegas Golden Knight.

Alexander Burmistrov’s prove-it contact might be the most intriguing and is certainly loaded with possibility. I think most teams that add a former first rounder to their roster all feel they can be the one to unleash the potential. Burmistrov has certainly not lived up to his draft hype from 2010 but it’s a low-risk, high-reward opportunity and it’s more depth at centre for the Canucks.

I thought, though, the best part of the day were the moves that weren’t made. In the days leading up to the opening of free agency the Canucks were linked to several impending UFAs or players on the trade block ranging from the head-scratchers (Karl Alzner) to the absurd (Joe Thornton).

I think, as a good general manager, you’re always out there kicking tires whether or not it actually fits into your original plan. If Joe Thornton wants to play in Vancouver and do so at significantly less than market value would you really say no?

The one move not made, but apparently the closest to coming to fruition, was the rumoured swap of defencemen between the Canucks and Panthers that would have sent Erik Gudbranson back to Florida in exchange for Jason Demers. It was a move vetoed by Demers.

This one I couldn’t understand at all if it was a straight-up one-for-one swap. Gudbranson certainly had a challenging first season in Vancouver hampered by injuries but it’s not as if he’s suddenly lost all the qualities that sold you on him a year ago when you dealt away one of your top prospects for him.

Gudbranson is four years younger than Jason Demers, and at least for the time being, is someone you have under cost control. One of the reasons the Panthers moved him a year ago was because they were afraid he’d command a huge salary increase this summer – something that obviously didn’t happen for a myriad of reasons.

At the same time, tying themselves to a defenceman who would have instantly become their second-highest paid blue-liner (behind Alex Edler) and one with a partial no-trade clause just seems counterintuitive.

Had it gone down it wouldn’t have wiped out what was otherwise a solid day for the Canucks, but it certainly would have dampened it.

I’ll count it as the first win of the 2017-18 season.

Photo credit: Sarah Connors

It’s okay to cheer for the Jays

With the Blue Jays in Seattle for a weekend series against the Mariners, it seems my Twitter timeline has been filled with M’s fans who are riled up because they can’t seem to fathom why anyone from B.C. would choose to pull for a team from Toronto (wow, right?) against their local team.

You know, the “local” team that’s a three-hour and 230 km drive away from Vancouver.

How many people who have stumbled onto this blog and are from the Vancouver-area cheered for the Abbotsford Heat when they were around?

Didn’t think so.

And the Heat were a much bigger part of the local community, at least in one B.C.-based city, than the Mariners are in Vancouver. At least that’s my perspective.

Granted, I’m not heavily involved in the baseball scene. I see they’re a listed partner on Baseball BC’s website so I imagine they contribute something to local grassroots baseball. But then again, so are the Vancouver Canadians (naturally) and their major league affiliate who just so happens to be the Blue Jays.

To me, it seems like there’s a natural synergy there. If you’re cheering for the minor professional team based in Vancouver (it doesn’t get any more local than that), why wouldn’t you naturally cheer for their major league affiliate as well?

Or does it only work in reverse?

How many of those complaining about B.C.’s Jays fans used to make the trip out to Abbotsford to cheer on the Manitoba Moose or the Chicago Wolves back when they used to be the minor league affiliate of the Canucks?

There are plenty of good and compelling arguments you can make for why B.C. fans should pull for the Mariners but geography isn’t one of them.

On Community Days and Event Management

We need more Community Days.

When I was growing up, Community Days never really appealed to me. I don’t remember being particularly enthused to attend such events.

But now I feel like I’ve gained a new sense of appreciation for them.

Having worked in event management in the past, I definitely know how much goes into it and how much the organizers do.

Events in public places and involving many different partners and groups are even more challenging. There’s everything from power requirements to portable washrooms to permits to consider, and then there’s mapping out the space, creating the schedule and planning out contingencies, which you have to do because there’s always something that goes awry.

Whether you’re a big or small company, if you’ve got a major event to run that takes place in a public setting, it may be worth your while to consult an event management group. If you’re in the Vancouver area, I’ll give shout out to a former colleague who is one of the best in the biz as far as I’m concerned.

You can find her on Twitter @gamesevenjen or on her website at www.gamesevenevents.com.

As for why I’m a big fan of Community Days now, I just find it nice to see groups representing a diverse range of people come together, share what they’re all about and do so in the spirit of friendship and inclusiveness

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Seems like it’s something we need to see more of in this world.

We need more Community Days.

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